18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the -chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Ipreface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, with the statement that for some years parts of the metropolitan area of Adelaide have been suffering from a ‘bad outbreak of fruit fly. Steps arc now being taken in an endeavour to prevent the outbreak spreading to other districts. - Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether any requests have been made to TransAustralia Airlines to assist in the achievement of this objective by complying with the proposals that have been made regarding the disposal and treatment of fruit that is carried by civil aircraft either as freight or for consumption by passengers? If such requests have been made, can the honorable gentleman say whether Trans-Australia Airlines has complied with them?
– All airlines in Australia have been asked to give consideration to this matter. A conference of agricultural experts has been held. It was presided over by Mr.Bulcock, the Director-General of Commerce and Agriculture, and was attended also by representatives of Trans-Australia Airlines and other airlines. The steps that are now being taken in an effort to prevent the pest from spreading to areas that are at present not affected by it arise from the recommendations that were made at that conference. Trans-Australia Airlines has done what it has been asked to do. At no time has it shown any reluctance to do so. It has been stated in this House that Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited have been co-operating, but that Trans-Australia Airlines had refused to do so. That statement is completely false and without foundation. It will be found that Trans-Australia Airlines is co-operating with the agricultural authorities in all endeavours that are being made to prevent the spread of fruit fly. Partially consumed fruit that has been carried on aircraft operated by Trans-Australia Airlines is incinerated, as is unconsumed fruit that has been carried from one State to another. I refute the false suggestion that, although Trans-Austraiia Airlines has refused to co-operate in the . steps that are being taken to prevent the spread of fruit fly, private airlines have done so.
– My question is addressed to’ the Attorney-General. By way of explanation, I state that I have received a letter from a constituent complaining that, in reply to a -request to the Department of External Affairs to be supplied with Current Affairs bulletins, a copy of a speech made by the AttorneyGeneral was forwarded to him. My constituent has voiced his strong resentment of this procedure. “Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether the national mailing list is being utilized to send copies of political speeches through the post? Is the time of officers of Commonwealth departments being used for that purpose? What department is debited with thecost of the labour involved in the distribution of this party political propaganda? What justification is there for using the national mailing list for thedissemination of party propaganda?
– The honorable member suggests that he has received a certain letter from a constituent. I shall be much obliged if he will show it to me, and I shall then have much pleasure in answering his question.
– I shall do so.
– The honorable member has based his question upon an assertion. It has been the regular practice for years to send out reports of speeches from time to time according to a mailing list. I do not know to what particular speech the honorable member has referred.
– To a speech on petrol.
– It may be on petrol.
– It had nothing to do with international affairs.
– Eeports of speeches on contentious subjects are sent out from time to time. I shall examine the honorable member’s question and supply an answer. There is complete -justification for the practice of sending out reports of speeches according to a mailing list, because information on. various matters should be available to the public.
– Is petrol one of those subjects?
– I do not think that the speech to which the honorable gentleman has referred deals with petrol.
Mr.RYAN. - Did not the Minister for Immigration become somewhat heated on the 30th June last over criticism to the effect that the departmental publication, New Australians, was government propaganda? Will the Minister examine the October issue of that publication and ascertain whether his name appears 21 times in eight pages, apart from a photograph in which he is shown giving a new Australian what the letterpress describes as an “ impulsive hug “ ?
Mr. Beale interjecting,
-Order! I have repeatedly had to call the honorable member for Parramatta to order for his bad conduct in the House.
– If the statements that I have made are facts, does the Minister still deny that that publication is other than government propaganda?
– I deny the soft impeachment that I became excited over criticism on the 30th June last or at any other time. New Australians is an excellent publication. It is issued for the information of newcomers, and is very popular with them. If my name appeared 21 times in eight pages in the October issue, that was necessary in order that the true story could be told to those new Australians. The circumstances under which my name appears in these publications may be simply described. Every statement that I make, or every decision that I give affecting the new Australians is reprinted in that publication, and my name is used only in association with statements of policy. I have no need to seek publicity in the columns of New Australians in order to popularize myself with people who have not a vote, or even with people who have the right to vote. As a matter of fact, I am. one of those people in this Parliament who have not suffered from a lack of publicity. If I am shown being hugged by a dear little girl who has come to this country, what is wrong with that ?
– As the result of the bountiful rains recently the prospects for the oat harvest this year are excellent. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give serious consideration to the granting of licences for the export of the oat crop in excess of local requirements ?
– Permits for the export of oats from the forthcoming harvest will be available on application to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The quantity that a shipper or producer will be allowed to export will be based upon the available stocks and the results of a survey of our local requirements. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that all applications for export licences will be treated on their merits.
– I address a ques tion to the Prime Minister. The atmosphere of the House strongly suggests that this is the last day of the session. Standing Order 119 provides that -if motions have not been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted. As the list -of ‘Government business indicates that the . period of two hours will be greatly exceeded, “will the Prime Minister provide an opportunity for . the House to discuss the motion standing in my name relative to a gift of food to the United Kingdom, when ‘Government business has been concluded?
– The answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question is “ No “. The House will adjourn to-day, and this Eighteenth Parliament -wiil be dissolved ‘ on Monday. Honorable members had an unrestricted opportunity in the general budget debate to raise any matters that they desired to raise. The first part of the notice of motion standing in the right honorable gentleman’s name asks the Parliament to recommend to the Government that a gift of £10,000,000 worth of food be made to the British people to obviate the necessity of reducing the British food ration. The honorable member for Balaclava and other honorable members have discussed that matter on a number of occasions, and the Government has stated its views on the subject. The second part of the right honorable gentleman’s motion is designed to influence the Parliament to recommend to the Government that an approach be made to all the governments of the British Empire with a view to calling a conference of the leaders of all parties to devise means of securing the mobilization and equitable distribution of the resources of the British Empire in order to restore prosperity in Great Britain at the earliest possible moment. It is physically impracticable at the moment to call the kind of conference that the right honorable gentleman has suggested. I should have been glad, in normal circumstances, to provide an opportunity for a debate on that motion, but many honorable members desire to return to their constituencies. The Government proposes to ask the House to deal with the Liquid Fuel (Rationing) Bill 1949, the Coal Industry (Tasmania) Bill 1949, the National Health Service Bill 1949, and the Sugar Agreement Bill 1949, and when consideration of those measures has been completed the House will adjourn.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, -whether you saw an article in the Sydney Sun, of the 26th October, headed in . bold ‘black type, “Politicians eat illegal fish, say anglers”. The article goes on to . say that fish caught illegally in the vicinity of the Burrinjuck Dam were taken to Parliament House, Canberra, every week. It is further stated that the fish were taken by dynamiting pools in streams that feed the dam. Can you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the statement is ‘correct? Have you any comment to make on it?
– The statement published in the newspaper is a figment of some one’s imagination. I understand that all the fish served in the refreshment rooms at Parliament House come from salt water and are of very good quality at that.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation state the number of aircraft owned by Qantas Empire Airways Limited? Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that a site at the corner of Hunter and Elizabeth streets, Sydney, was bought yesterday for £85,000, and that an eleven-story building is to be erected there to house the head-quarters staff of Qantas Empire Airways Limited? Is this high expenditure justified, and under what item in the Estimates was it approved ?
– I cannot state offhand the number of aircraft owned by Qantas Empire Airways, but I shall try to get the information. Perhaps it will be supplied in some of the answers circulated to-day to a number of questions asked earlier in the session. It is true that, for some time, negotiations have been going on with the idea of purchasing a site on which to erect a building to accommodate the staff of Qantas Empire Airways Limited which at present occupy space in a number of buildings. I do not know whether the honorable member suggests that it is desirable to have the staff scattered so as to cause disorganization and extra expense. When an opportunity presents itself, and building materials become available, a substantial building will be erected on. the site to house that part of the staff of - Qantas Empire Airways. Limited whose duties do not require them to be accommodated at the aerodromes. I believe that the expenditure will be justified. Qantas Empire Airways Limited is a very large organization which conducts one of the biggest and most famous airlines in the world at a profit to the Australian people. It is necessary that such an organization, should be suitably housed.
– Has the Minister’ for
Defence seen a press statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, which) is reported in the Melbourne Herald, of the 25th October, as follows.: -
Another world war would probably Begin without warning and we might be in the thick of it in a few days.
How does such, a statement square, with the action of the Opposition in urging the Government to use defence stocks of petrol when service chiefs have said that, the minimum reserve should be 50,000;000 gallons?
– I did notice a statement in the Melbourne Herald of the night before, last by the Leader of the Opposition that, if another war broke out, we should be. in the thick of it. within a few days.. I find it quite impossible to reconcile that opinion with the statements of the Leader of the Australian Country party, and other members of the Opposition,, that we should use our defence reserve stocks of petrol.
– The Minister said that there, would be no war for ten years.
– Never mind what I said. There is complete incompatibility between the statement made by the. Leader of the Opposition and those of the Leader of the Australian Country party and other honorable gentlemen opposite. On the one hand, the Leader of the Opposition says that if there is another war we shall be in the thick of it in a few days, and, on the other hand, the other honorable gentlemen I have mentioned, urge that we should use our defence stocks of petrol.
– I am informed that the Union Jack that has hung in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney for nearly half a century was deliberately obscured during a ceremony for the mass naturalization of European immigrants in the Great Hall last week and that this action was taken by officials of the Department of Immigration. I ask theMinister for Immigration whether that is true. I ask him whether it is not the usual’ and proper thing that the Union Jaek should be hung in conjunction with the Australian national flag as an indication of our association with the British Crown and the British Empire. “Why did the Minister consider it necessary to minimize Australia’s association with the British Crown and the British Empire in that way before the- eyes of foreign immigrants ?
– The honorable member for Parramatta has- asked why I saw fit to minimize the importance of the Union Jack at a mass naturalization ceremony. I did not minimize the Union Jack or the Australian flag. What I did,, and what I have always done, was to get the biggest Australian flag that I could get to cover as much as possible of the wall of the building behind the dais occupied by the judge in order to impress the new Australians with the importance of the flag of this country and. in order further to impress them with- the fact that they were entering membership’ of the British Commonwealth of Nations through the gateway of Australian citizenship. In displaying the Australian flag, about which the honorable member does not seem to be enthusiastic, I displayed every portion of it, including the corner that is occupied by the Union Jack. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs, who made the speech of welcome to the new Australians, dilated at length on the importance of the flag and each section of it. The article on which the honorable member hung his question, after expressing ill-founded criticism, gave strangely enough a verbatim account of what my colleague had said. That is the answer to the allegation about minimizing, the importance of the Union Jack. Asa matter of fact, in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney, which I visited for the first time on Saturday, aud which was used for the first time in the history of the university for a function other than one associated with the university, there is, I am told, a big biblical scroll and painting on the far wall. I did not see it, because I had no hand or part in making the arrangements for the function, but, at one side of that biblical scroll, there was a small Union Jack and, on the other side, there was an Australian red ensign. The honorable member did not criticize the fact that the Australian red ensign was covered. He directed his attention to the Onion Jack. I put up the biggest flag that I could find. It was the Australian flag. That was the important thing to do. It was also the right thing to do. The Union Jack is an integral part of the Australian flag. We emphasize the importance of Australia, and we equally emphasize the importance of Australia’s continued membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations in our flag. The Government party in this Parliament is the one party which in every way is doing its utmost to maintain the British Commonwealth of Nations. We do not desire to sink it, as do some honorable members opposite, over petrol and other matters.
Medical .Services : Appointment of Alien Doctors
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to the reported shortage of medical staff in Papua-New Guinea? If so, will the Minister inform the House whether any steps have been taken to alleviate that shortage by the appointment of suitably qualified persons from among the new Australians who are being brought to this country under the scheme for the resettlement of displaced persons from Europe ?
– I am aware of the needs of the medical services in PapuaNew Guinea. The honorable member’s question relates to a subject which has been referred to by honorable members on both sides of the House for some time past, which is, the necessity to use the services of new Australians to the greatest possible degree in conformity with their attainments, aptitudes and qualifications. But in order that persons with medical degrees from European universities, who are nationals of countries with which Australia has no reciprocal agreement for the recognition of such degrees, may practise, it is necessary that they should become registered under State laws. There is no disposition on the part of some State’ authorities to grant such recognition, but this Parliament has powers under the Australian Constitution to register such medical practitioners in territories of the Commonwealth such as Papua-New Guinea, the Australian Capita] Territory, the Northern Territory, and Norfolk Island. The Department of Immigration has received requests from the Department of External Territories for the services of a number of doctors. Dr. Gunther, who is chief of the medical services in Papua-New Guinea, has been in consultation with officers of my department about this matter. I think that about 40 doctors amongst the new Australians have been examined, and some have already been selected by Dr. Gunther. Those who have had medical experience in Europe and who have satisfied Dr. Gunther’s requirements are to go to Papua-New Guinea as soon as possible. They number six and will be registered as medical practitioners in Papua New-Guinea and will attend to the needs of the natives of the territory. The Minister for External Territories has been most anxious that the health of the natives should not suffer. The Government has tried in England, Australia and in fact everywhere, to get doctors to go to Papua-New Guinea, but has met with no success. It is hoped that ultimately all of the 40 individuals whom I have mentioned will be appointed to practise in New Guinea. I believe that such appointments will have some influence upon the attitude of the British Medical Association and the State medical boards on the question of affording recognition to university degrees in medicine and other branches of science held by these new Australians. The men who are to be appointed are all single men and will attend an orientation course at the
Australian School of Pacific Administration, at Mosman, Sydney, prior to proceeding to the Territory. They will be registered for medical practice in the territory of Papua-New Guinea when they arrive in that territory.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask you whether, before the House rises, you can inform honorable members of the arrangements which are to be made in the new Parliament for the seating of members in this chamber. Have details of the seating arrangements been finalized? If so, were they discussed by the Joint House Committee, and is it considered that the necessary action will be completed in time for the assembly of the new Parliament? Finally, can you inform honorable members, particularly those now sitting on this side of the House, what arrangements they will need to make if they desire to reserve one of the seats on the other side of the chamber?
– I understand that the seating of additional members of this House was attended to by Mr. Speaker, prior to his illness. Plans have been prepared and the new seats are now being constructed and will be ready for installation before the new Parliament meets. Particulars of the new seating arrangements are available at the office of the Clerk of the House. If the honorable member desires to examine them, he may do so.
– In view of the wonderful season now being experienced throughout the wheat areas, wheatgrowers are very worried about the supply of cornsacks. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what arrangements the Government has made for obtaining the requisite quantity of cornsacks? Have the sacks yet been supplied, and what will be their approximate cost?
– I have been assured that the supply of cornsacks already in Australia and on the water will be sufficient adequately to cover the antici pated wheat crop. At the moment stocks on hand amount to 147,000 bales, compared with approximately 139,000 bales at this time last year. Further shipments are coming forward. There need be no fear that adequate supplies of cornsacks will not be available. The existing price may be subject to some slight adjustment. Speaking from memory, the price at present is 3s. 6d. each. The price is adjusted from time to time in accordance with the purchases made at varying costs.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the eleven Communist leaders who were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in the United States of America were convicted for advocating the forcible overthrow of the American form of government? Do Australian Communists conform to a similar philosophy and plan of action? Will the Prime Minister obtain details of the charges that were made in the American cases and of the law under which the American Government acted, with a view to considering whether similar legislation might not be enacted in this country ?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- I have received many telegrams recently in which complaints have been made a.bout the severity . of the Australian law in its application to Communists who have been found guilty of making subversive statements. I was interested to read that a few days ago a Conservative member of the House of Commons asked the British Government whether it was prepared to take the same stern action against Communists as has been taken by the Australian Government. I have read reports of the recent trial of Communists in the United States of America, but I do not know very much about American law or its application to American Communists. I know that Mr. Dewey and Mr. Truman both made it clear in the speeches that they delivered during the last American presidential campaign that they had no intention of banning the Communist party. They said, in effect, as I have repeatedly said in this chamber, that if any Communist is- proved to have indulged in subversive or seditious activities in breach of the law he will be prosecuted. That has been done in Australia. I do not propose to make any examination of American law. If there is any information about it that the honorable member for Reid desires to have, I shall endeavour to obtain it for him if he so requests.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth Bank is prepared to advance money to enable its clients to purchase motor cars and trucks under hire purchase agreements but will not make similar facilities available to farmers who want to purchase tractors? If that is so, why is that discrimination practised?
– The hire purchase section of the Industrial Finance Division of the Commonwealth Bank makes money available for the purchase of motor cars under hire purchase agreements. . I understand that it also makes money available, to some degree, for the purchase of agricultural machinery. The administrative working of the bank is a matter with which I am not concerned, apart from the discussions that I have with the Governor of the bank relative to certain aspects of general policy. The honorable gentleman has suggested that the bank makes money available for the purchase of cars but not for the purchase of tractors. I shall ask the Governor to examine that matter, and I shall supply the honorable gentleman later with the information for which he has asked.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs received a request from women’s organizations in Australia to assist in convening a special world conference of women, within the scope of the United Nations, at which women from every member nation of the organization, irrespective of their legal position in their own countries, could meet to discuss disarmament and world peace? If the Minister has received such a request, will he say whether any move has been made, or is being made, in Australia or in any other country to achieve this objective ?
– I am not aware that any representations have been received upon this matter. However, I shall check to see whether that is so. I know of no plan such as that to which the honorable member has referred, but that is probably because I have not received any official information about it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, relates to a branch of the tanning industry in my electorate and to the administrative procedure of the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board, an organization that is subject to direction by the Minister. Will the Minister investigate the possibility of having an allocation of calf skins made to Zwar Brothers Proprietary Limited, of Beechworth. That company, which employs hundreds of men, recently brought to this country technicians who are skilled in the treatment of calf skins. I am informed that it has expended approximately £40,000 in preparing to engage in this industry.
– Order ! What is the honorable gentleman’s question ?
– Will the Minister examine the possibility of an allocation of calf skins being made to this company? An allocation of skins has been made to a company in Sydney that has only recently engaged in the tanning business and which is employing a technician who was brought to Australia by Zwar Brothers Proprietary Limited.
– I recollect that the honorable gentleman has made some representations to me about this matter by letter. I have also received representations from Zwar Brothers Proprietary Limited. Those representations have been forwarded to the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board, ‘ which comes within my jurisdiction. Despite the opposition of the honorable member for Indi, the legislation under which the board was established contains a provision under which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has the right to give directions to the board. In order to ensure that, in this free economy about which the” honorable gentleman boasts so much, every Australian shall have at least equality of opportunity, I have made it clear to the board that I expect allocations of skins to be made without fear or favour and that I also expect that any company that enters the industry shall be given a fair go providing it has the necessary plant and equipment. There has been a tendency to continue in the post-war era the preferential treatment that was extended to some companies during the war, perhaps inevitably. I am not prepared to stand for that. I am sure that the board has endeavoured to do what is right and fair. I shall again examine the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Indi, but the position is rather difficult. There is a great demand by tanners for hides and skins. I am anxious that each company shall get a fair proportion of the materials that are available. Apparently, the technician that Zwar Brothers Proprietary Limited brought to Australia from another country has hired himself to another firm. That firm sought an allocation of skins, and got it. Naturally, that is not very palatable to Zwar Brothers Proprietary Limited. That is unfortunate, but it ia a private and not a public “yike “. I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall endeavour to see fair play for all concerned.
– As Chairman, I present the third report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel relates to the transport of sugar from North Queensland .ports. The position this year .is the best that it has been for many years, with the exception of conditions at Lucinda Point and Bowen. Whilst I realize that the Commonwealth has very limited power to direct vessels to call at any Australian ports, I ask the Minister to urge his colleague to use every endeavour with the Australian Shipping Board to ensure that as many vessels as possible shall be directed to Lucinda Point and Bowen.
– The honorable member for Herbert has taken a great interest in the shipment of sugar from north Queensland ports. Last year, a situation arose similar to that which he described a few moments ago, and it appeared that it would be impossible to move the sugar from certain ports on time. As the result of representations by the honorable member for Herbert, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel was able to arrange for some ships to call at those ports and the cargoes were lifted in due course. I am sure that when I bring the present position to the notice of the Minister, be will take similar action on this occasion. I assure the honorable gentleman that if his request cannot be acceded to, it will not be because the Minister for Shipping and Fuel has not done his utmost in the matter.
– by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) asked a question about the guaranteed price for butter and cheese, and a few days ago, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked similar questions. I am now in a position to make a statement on the matter. In October, 1947, following recommendations from the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, which comprises representatives of the industry and officers of Commonwealth departments, the Government announced its decision to guarantee a price to the dairying industry on the total production of butter, cheese and processed milk products for a period of five years from the 1st April, 1947. It also announced that it had accepted 2s. per lb. for commercial butter at factory door as the recognized cost of production as from that date, and considered that that return would be subject to variation up or down in accordance with demonstrated movements in costs, after review each year during the five-year period.
Based upon a review of costs in the first half of 1948, a recommendation was made by the committee that the return to farmers at factory door be increased by 2d. per lb. for commercial butter. That recommendation was accepted by the Government, and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner approved appropriate rises of retail prices to consumers as from the 1st July, 1948. The Government at the same time maintained the rate of subsidy on locally consumed butter and cheese. Without the subsidy, those prices would necessarily have been higher by 6d. per lb. for butter and 3d. per lb. for cheese. The review of costs undertaken in April and June of this year, revealed that a further increase of the basic return to the dairy-farmer of 2^ lb. for commercial butter was warranted, which would bring the overall return to the dairy-farmer at factory door to 2s. 4Jd. per lb. for commercial butter. That figure was accepted by the Commonwealth and, with an additional i&. per lb. in respect of manufacturing costs, formed the basis of an approach to the British Ministry of Food for an increase of the price of export butter and cheese under the terms of the contract between the two governments as from the 1st July, in respect of the contract year 1949-50.
In the light of the committee’s findings, the Government was of the opinion that higher pries should be fixed for butter and cheese consumed locally, and in June last, it referred the matter to the State Prices Ministers. The Government informed them that it was prepared to continue the subsidy at the existing rates of 6d. per lb. for butter and 3d. per lb. for cheese. At those rates, the cost of the subsidy was estimated at £5,000,000 per annum. The State Prices Ministers have not yet approved of the higher local prices for butter and cheese. To give the States additional time to consider the present findings of the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee and for an approach to secure an undertaking that the State Prices Ministers will give due consideration to the future findings of that body, the Government will pay to dairy-farmers by way of additional subsidy the increase of established production costs at the rate of 2-J per lb. for commercial butter from the 1st July to the 31st December. In the absence of such an understanding with the States, the Government feels that it would be futile for the committee to continue to function. The Government would then be obliged to re-examine the position in the light of the circumstances obtaining. The Government further decided that the increase of the manufacturing costs of butter and cheese for local consumption was a matter for adjustment between manufacturers and! the State Prices Ministers . concerned. Arrangements are being made for a retrospective subsidy payment in respect of the latest increase of production costs to be made to dairy-farmers at the earliest possible moment. It is estimated that the amount involved will be approximately £1,250,000.
- by leave- -The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has just announced that the Government, on the eve of the election, is going to honour an undertaking which was given a long time ago to the dairying industry. The Government gave a clear and unequivocal undertaking to the industry that it would’ assure dairyfarmers a price for their butter fat that would cover the cost of production as determined by a committee of investigation. Since May last the Government has been in possession of the most recent recommendations of the committee, but instead of honouring its obligations it has attempted to evade them, and to transfer the responsibility to the State governments, by asking them to authorize an increase of the price of butter so that the cost might be borne by the consumers. In that way, the Commonwealth would’ be able to evade any financial responsibility for the pledge it has given. Had the States done as requested, the effect would have been to increase the cost of living and of production, and to contribute to the general inflationary tendency in Australia. Members of the Opposition are glad that the Government, impelled, no doubt, by the approach of the general election, has at last been brought to honour its positive and unequivocal promise, and that, on the eve of the elections, it proposes to disburse certain moneys to the dairy-farmers, as it proposes also to disburse moneys held by it on behalf of the wool producers.
I conclude by saying that I hope that whatever government is in office after the 10th December - I make no predictions - will see that the next inquiry into the cost of production in the dairying industry is conducted on a different basis from the last one, and that it will bear a closer relation to the accepted standard of living in Australia. For instance, the committee made its findings on the assumption that a margin of only 25s. a week above the basic wage should be allowed to a dairyfarmer managing’ his own property ; and that a dairy-farmer, his family and his employees should work a 56-hour week. If they worked more hours in a week they were to be compensated only at the normal hourly rate, not at time and1 a half, or double time, as is done in all other industries. I make this statement to draw attention to the following three points: - First, that the Government has attempted to evade the financial responsibilities arising from its promise; secondly, that it has finally faced its responsibilities only on the eve of an election; and, thirdly, that the Government accepts for the dairying industry a working week of 56 hours, when it sent counsel to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to advocate a 40-hour week for all other industries.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the same subject.
Leave not granted.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 2097), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) attempted to explain why the rationing of petrol should be re-introduced in Australia. He dealt with the subject generally and specifically. He referred to Great Britain’s difficulties, and pointed out that Great Britain had suffered severe losses during the war. He then added that there was an Empire dollar pool upon which Australia drew for the purchase of petrol. He did not say, however, that the Australian Government had been told by the Government of the United Kingdom to see that we balanced our dollar trade with the United States of America ; and that we had been buying too much from that country, and selling too little to it. I wish to make it clear, that, if there is a shortage of petrol in Australia to-day - and there is, because the bowsers are drying up - the reason is that the Government has cut off petrol supplies by refusing to allow more than a specified quantity to be imported. The Prime Minister attempted to confuse the issue by allowing it to be assumed that the fault lay with theStates. As a matter of fact, the States are only agents for the distribution of petrol, and they have been placed in a difficult position.
It is true that Great Britain is passing through difficult times. The British people should not have to fight a second battle of Great Britain, this time an economic battle. The Dominions have failed Great Britain by not participating in an Empire scheme designed to solve the Empire’s economic problems. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) attended an economic conference in London, but we have heard nothing about the results. The reason, of course, is that the results were negative. A plan should long since have been adopted for funding Britain’s debts to various countries, including the United States of America. Had that been done, Britain would not now be on the road to bankruptcy, as some authorities claim it is. The socialist government in Great Britain has neglected its trust, and has let the country down. It is ridiculous that Great Britain should be in pawn to Egypt, a country which Great Britain saved more than once during the war. The dissipation of Great Britain’s reserves is due largely to the fact that payments to Egypt and to India were convertible into dollars, and those countries insisted upon receiving payment in dollars. That situation has now been altered, but much damage was done.
Petrol is as important to the industrial development of Australia as is coal, and is necessary for the conduct of both primary and secondary industries. This continent consists of a huge area. Some parts outback, noi served by railways, are dependent on road transport. If the Government cannot find a way out of the mere difficulty of getting 10 per cent, more petrol in order to render rationing unnecessary, it is not fit to govern. Edmund Burke, whose profound ideas are still accepted, said -
Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.
If the Government lacks this wisdom, it should make way for another government. I think it will be forced to do so on the 10th December. The people will not stand the development of Australia being hampered by a government that puts its own doctrinaire ideas before the welfare of the country. I believe that the position can be got over. I do not think any one will deny that French petrol is available. Nothing that the Prime Minister has said refutes that, but, because it is 3d. a gallon dearer than other petrol, probably because of the long distance it has to be transported, the right honorable gentleman says that it cannot come into the country. In effect, he has said, “We cannot subsidize petrol”. I agree that the Government could not subsidize one shipment of petrol, but the remedy lies in its own hands. There is a heavy duty on petrol. Some of the proceeds from that duty are used for the development of roads. That is a good thing. The federal aid roads scheme, which has been in operation for about twenty years and was instituted by the Bruce-Page Government, has done a great deal to develop roads, but there is sufficient of the revenue from the petrol tax left after the requirements of the federal aid roads agreement have been satisfied to enable the difficulty of the dearer price of French petrol to be easily overcome. The following tables show what motorists pay for each gallon of petrol : -
If the petrol is refined in Australia, motorists pay the same amount in a different way, thus -
Is there not sufficient margin for the Government to disgorge 3d. a gallon? If we imported 10 per cent, more petrol we could get over our difficulty. There will be no need for petrol rationing in the middle of next year when the oil refineries at Haifa get working again. France has made an important discovery of crude oil in one of its provinces. The Prime Minister is obstinate. He refuses to see the way out. Does he think that officers of the Department of Trade and’ Customs and of the Treasury could not find a solution merely because he cannot find one? It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister of this great dominion should be so obstinate. The Prime Minister is a tyrant whose ministry consists of a lot of petty tyrants. He is like the boy who takes his cricket bat home when his mates will not allow him to do all the batting.
– Order ! There is nothing about cricket in the bill.
– The Prime Minister is not playing cricket. That is shown by the fact that he allows his pique, when things go against him, to override the country’s good. When he lost the action in the High Court which was brought by the Melbourne City Council–
– Order ! The honorable member must come back to the bill or I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– Last night these matters were discussed in association with petrol and I claim the same right as has been granted to other honorable members.
– Order ! The bill has nothing to do with decisions by the High Court.
– I am showing how the Prime Minister has acted on other occasions. When the prices referendum was taken, the people were not asked to vote on rationing. The Government lost the referendum in every State. Instead of taking the defeat as a sportsman, the Prime Minister-
– Order ! The honorable member admits that nothing was decided about rationing at the referendum. The honorable member may not canvass the whole political field in debating this bill. He must deal with whether it is right to ration petrol or not.
– I am referring to a matter that affects Australia’s development. Last week, when the Parliament voted £8,000,000 to the States to recompense them for their losses during the coal strike, I asked the Prime Minister why he did not build up a stockpile of coal. He will not do so, because he is afraid to antagonize some people outside who are largely his masters. Not only are people faced with a scarcity of petrol, but they will have to pay more for such petrol as they can get. The State Ministers controlling prices will be forced to increase the price of petrol. That is partly because of the devaluation of the currency. Money now buys less than it did before. The shortage can be overcome by tariff action. The Government should not be so rapacious as it is. The Prime Minister is rapacious. He has a monopoly taxing machine and grinds 550 per cent, more out of the people than was taken from them in taxes before the war, but national income has risen by only a little more than 100 per cent. One does not need a deep knowledge of economics to know that that sort of thing cannot continue. The commodities that this country produces are wanted by a hungry world, but the Prime Minister is too obtuse to realize the possibilities. He takes reprisals on the people when things go against him. He took reprisals against the people after the defeat of the prices referendum by withdrawing subsidies. He took reprisals against the doctors-
– Order! The honorable member must abide by the ruling that the Chair has already given.
– That is a very great factor. When a country is led by a man who is so psychologically satisfied with himself that he believes that everything that he does is right and when he considers that he has no obligation to ensure that the people obtain their needs, all sorts of things may happen. There is a way out of this petrol difficulty. Has the Government considered the effects of a continuance of the present petrol shortage? The States have been put in a position in which they have to pass some legislation to ensure an equitable distribution of petrol. That has been necessary only because the Prime Minister has cut off the source of supply. Does the Government realize that 30 per cent, of the operational costs of airlines in Australia is represented by expenditure on aviation fuel, on which there is a duty of lid. a gallon? Every increase of Id. in the price of petrol will cost Trans- Australia Airlines another £35,000 a year. Ever since its foundation that airline has been losing money and the losses have to be provided by the Australian taxpayers. In spite of the percentage figures cited by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) from time to time, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, a .private enterprise, carries more passengers and freight than does the Government’s airline. An increase of 3 1/2d. a gallon in the price of petrol would cost that company £45,000 a year. Increased petrol prices would result in diminished airline services to the people in the outback whose sole communication with the rest of the Commonwealth is often the flying doctor services. The Government may look at the affairs of some small aviation company that is servicing an outback area and decide to reduce its subsidy and the company would have to reduce its services.
I have some figures that show how indifferent the Government is to the progress that Australia has already made. We are endeavouring to develop our population by natural increase and by immigration, because we are only a white outpost on the edge of Asia, a continent that has half the world’s population and where there are people who have their eyes on this country. “We have to rely on the rest of the Empire and on the United States. There has undoubtedly been some creditable development in Australia in a century and a half. Statistics on the importation of petrol show the progress of motor transport, which has played and is now playing a most important part in our development. In the last year before the war we imported 333,000,000 gallons. In 1947, after years of petrol rationing, we imported 397,000,000 gallons, and in 1948 we imported 407,000,000 gallons. Now, at the end of 1949, the Government lays down that we shall only be permitted to import 440,000,000 gallons, and damn the consequences ! It does not matter to the Government who suffers. There is no reason why private motorists should not have the petrol they require. What about the requirements of medical men and of commercial motor transport? If honorable members on the Government side of the House think that commercial motor transport does not matter, let me remind them that the number of commercial motor vehicles in Australia increased by over 200,000 between 1938 and this year, compared with an increase of only 100,000 in the number of private motor vehicles. The people who operate commercial motor vehicles will find their industry and employment placed in jeopardy by the Government’s proposals. As honorable members know, many service stations refuse to supply petrol to travellers so that men driving transport waggons on the roads run the risk of finding their vehicles immobilized in transit.
I consider that it is well to have a quantity of petrol earmarked for defence, but the Government’s refusal to consider making available a part of the 50,000,000 gallons that it has stored away for defence purposes conflicts, with the statements of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) that there will not be a war for many years and with exaggerated statements about our readiness for defence. Last night the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that Australia was in a great state of unreadiness in 1941, and he also mentioned the shortage of petrol. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is to be commended for his stand on this issue of petrol, and last night he answered the Government’s statements completely when he said that a government formed by the present Opposition parties sent petrol to Great Britain in 1941 to help that country in its dire need. The Leader of the Australian Country party has said that petrol can be obtained, and I think that nobody doubts that fact now; but for a long time the Prime Minister attacked him and tried to put him in the wrong. I know that in 1941 there was never any shortage of petrol for the Air Force training that we carried out in cooperation with other Empire countries. The Prime Minister from time to time has blamed Great Britain’s troubles for our present petrol position, but he knows that there are ways out of the present position. He knows that it is possible to buy petrol from the sterling areas. He also knows that an increase in the price of petrol will create hardship for Aus,tralians. He would sooner do that than make a tax concession.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding about this petrol issue. Many people believe that either the Government of ‘ Victoria or the Government of New South Wales is in some measure to blame for the present position. That is not so. The ultimate basic reason for that position is the cutting off of imports by the Prime Minister. I do not know on whose calculations he worked, or whether they were the calculations of a bureaucrat or a member of the Labour party caucus, but he has taken the responsibility of bringing this trouble upon us. He has attempted to create the impression that the States are responsible for the shortage so that his Government can take action to release petrol immediately before the general election and enable Ministers to issue .propaganda to the effect that the Labour party in its federal sphere was able to make petrol available to the people.
– Hear, hear!
– I have seen the latest publication of the Minister for Information, who has just interjected. I do not know whether it is printed at public expense or not, but the Minister should be ashamed of some of the misleading statements that appear in- it. In that publication, the Minister confirms the fact that the Government intends to say that the Labour party enabled the .people to get petrol. In fact, however, it is only the Australian Government and no other government which controls the importation of petrol, because it has sole control of customs matters under the Constitution. The Prime Minister has decided, perhaps aided and abetted by some of the minor despots around him, that Australia shall receive only a certain quantity of petrol. Just as he cut out subsidies after the defeat of the prices referendum and so caused prices to increase, so he also said on this occasion, in effect, “We shall cut off petrol and put State governments in difficulties. Many people will blame the State governments and when we make petrol available nt the last minute we shall get the credit “. There is an old saying that “ You can fool some of the people all oi the time and all of the people some of the time, but that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time “. The Prime Minister has been adopting such tactics for some years. It is clever work to take up .a piqued attitude and act the despot, find put the blame for difficulties on somebody else, but I think that on this present occasion, because petrol is a commodity so important to the life of the community, the people will see through the Prime Minister’s scheme. The people are tired of the policy of the socialists who are doctrinaire politicians. The socialist policy is socialism of the means of production, distribution and exchange. That policy refers among other things to the distribution of petrol. The Government intends to own and control all that it can own and control, but I think that this time the people will think that the socialists, with their policy of meddle and muddle have misruled us for too long. In a few hours the Eighteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia will end and the various political parties will go to the hustings. All kinds of distortions about this Government’s alleged achievement have already been issued. Every Minister has published some sort of blurb extolling his department’s activities. The booklet issued by the Minister for Labour and National
Service (Mr. Holloway) contains many statistics that are open to challenge. The facts relating to this subject may be very seriously misconstrued by many people because of the propaganda which the Government sends out at the expense of the public and- not, as it should’ be, at the expense of the Australian Labour party. The people are very long-suffering and tolerant, and, above all, are sportsmanlike in their attitude. They will decide that this Labour Government, which does not really represent the people, because its members are mere delegates of outside bodies instead of being true representatives of the people, as we are, has occupied the treasury bench for much too long a time.
– Order! The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– The petrol issue will be one of the many that will bring about the downfall of this Government. The people who will soon be given an opportunity to express their views will sweep these muddlers and meddlers from the treasury bench.
.- The preamble of this bill is as gloomy as is the Apocalypse. It reflects the Government’s outlook on this petrol problem. The Government has made no attempt to relieve the petrol supply position. Its sole aim has been to see that rationing of petrol is restored’. Any one who arrived in Canberra during the last three months who was able to indicate ways and means of finding all the petrol requirements of this country without rationing would have been looked upon as public enemy No. 1. The Government predicted chaos, and so chaos had to be. The Prime Minister’s attitude is one of “I told you so”. Of course, he has been sitting on a full hand. He has control of the issue of import licences. He regulates the entry of petrol into this country. Merely by deferring a decision, vital sources of supply can be lost. We have had all kinds of explanations made of the causes of the present, position. We have been told all about the alleged drain on dollars. But only a small fraction of our petrol comes from dollar countries. So, if the problem is one of meeting dividends for petrol companies owned in the United States of America, why not say so? We still have not been told how much would be necessary, in dollars, to meet all our petrol requirements. We can find money for international relief, for our legations abroad, for the world bank, and for all kinds of unnecessary dollar expenditure; but we cannot have more dollars for petrol. That is why this bill has been introduced. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is never more stubborn than when the High Court tells him that something which he has done is unconstitutional. That has happened in the case of petrol rationing. It has also happened in the case of the Melbourne City Council and in the case of the doctors. Now, in order to prove that the High Court was wrong, and that the right honorable gentleman was right, we have this artificially created1 chaos of the past month. When the Government forces this bill through the Parliament petrol is expected to flow again into the bowsers. It is proposed to give to motorists sufficient petrol ration tickets to last until the 31st January next. This Government will then have another look at the position. It will decide whether the motorists have been suffering enough. It will decide whether or not it should again reduce the ration. If it carries out its declared policy, it will have to do so. The Prime Minister has stated time after time that for the year ending the 31st May, 1950, he will not permit the companies to sell more than- 440,000,000 gallons, plus the adjustment due to the coal strike. After allowing for government use, the amount available for civilian consumption will be reduced to 433,000,000 gallons. But, according- to Government figures, during the four months period from J une to September the companies have oversold a total of 34,000,000 gallons. The Government is working on the assumption that from October to the 31st January next consumption will be at the rate of 433,000,000 gallons. The new ration tickets which will be issued’ on the 15th November will be on that basis. So that, on the 31st January next, with only four months to go there will still be 34,000,000 gallons to be made up. The only way in which it could be made up would be to reduce civilian consumption by 8,500,000 gallons a month. That would involve a 25 per cent, cut in the ration. It would mean the end of all private motorist usage. The Government should tell us now what it proposes to do about those 34,000,000 gallons. Doe3 it propose to allow an increase over the 433,000,000 gallons, or does it propose to stick to its original announcement ? If it is returned to power, what does it propose to do after the 31st January next?’ The public is entitled to know. This bill should not be necessary. There are two ways in which to tackle the problem. The first is to lift all restrictions upon import licences and let traders operate on the basis of competitive trade. We have seen the results of a little healthy competion in the last few days. Despite obstruction by the Government, one company succeeded in finding new sources of petrol supplies.
We still have large export surpluses, and they should be sufficient to supply all our needs. There should be plenty of suppliers who are eager to do business with us on the basis that this is a very solvent nation in a world in which many nations are insolvent. It is not for the Government to erect new trade barriers. The Government’s job should be to remove such barriers. It should encourage traders to obtain petrol from wherever it is available. The oil companies fully understand the technique of international trade. That is their job. It is not the Government’s job.
We are depending too much upon the Bank of England. It astounds me that men who for twenty years have been emphatic that the Bank of England strangled this country in the early 1930’s are now anxious to hand over to it the complete control of this country. The Prime Minister tells us that he is waiting on the Bank of England before he can tell the prices commissioners how much should be charged for petrol. He waits on the Bank of England to tell him how many dollars he may expend upon petrol. He waits upon the Bank of England to tell him how many gallons of petrol he may issue import licences for during the coming year. Never before has any government of this country been kept in such close confinement by the Bank of England. Yet, we have huge assets lodged with the bank that may never be redeemed. All we need is a token payment in the form of petrol without which this country cannot function in a modern economy.
Instead of falling hack upon the frustrations and regimentations of rationing, the Government should have taken positive steps to deal with the position. Instead of waiting for Ampol to do a job, it should have invited all companies to do their utmost to find petrol. It should have lifted restrictions upon import licences. Had it done so, this country would have been as well off as are Italy, Japan and Germany, which lost the war but apparently won the petrol peace. In addition, the Government should have taken urgent positive steps to make Australia independent of all outside oil suppliers and oil cartels. It has not done so. Had it done so, there would have been no need for the measure that is now before the House.
The most urgent task of the Government is to discover and develop, within territories under Australian control, sufficient oil to meet our immediate needs. Without petrol, this nation will become a backward nation. No expense and no effort should be spared to ensure that Australia becomes self-supporting. Although we are pouring out millions of pounds upon other projects, last year the Government spent only £49,000 upon developmental work in relation to mineral resources. Our position in relation to petroleum development is an alarming one. We spent a lot of money on Newnes, but practically nothing is being spent upon the far more urgent problems of flow oil and hydrogenation. The truth is that most of the potential oil-bearing areas are now under the control of foreign oil companies. Geological surveys have satisfied the experts that oil does exist in several structures in Australian territories. Large sums of money have been expended by overseas companies, but the results are shrouded in secrecy. We have been told that, in recent test drillings, oil in formation has been discovered in Papua, but we do not know the extent of the strikes. We must be satisfied that these overseas interests are willing and anxious to develop any fields under their control, and also that they would work a concession, the working of which might be a vital economic necessity for this country, even if it did not provide results that were competitive with the results to be obtained from concessions in other parts of the world. The history of oil search in this country is full of strange coincidences and mysterious mishaps, but I do not propose to probe those stories at this stage. The duty of this Parliament is to satisfy itself that the Government is taking every possible step to develop our resources. We shall not get very far on the £49,000 a year that the Government proposes to spend.
The Prime Minister, in reply to a question that I asked recently, expressed his grave concern about the terms of the oil agreement with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. That agreement was signed in 1920. It is high time that it was jettisoned. The Commonwealth holds one more share than 50 per cent, of the total issued capital. The rest of the shares are owned by the AngloIranian Oil Company, of which the British Government .owns a half share. It was formerly known as the AngloPersian Oil Company. According to the Prime Minister, the Commonwealth has no say in the control of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company appoints four directors and the Commonwealth appoints three directors. This is the company that was established in the first instance to finance and develop Australia’s own fuel oil resources ! Under the oil agreement, the Commonwealth was to supply to the company for refining indigenous oil up to a maximum of 200,000 tons a year, as it became available, from within the Commonwealth or from any territory under Commonwealth control. Until local oil became available, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was to supply the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited with such crude material as it needed, up to but not exceeding 200,000 tons a year. So, it is not in the interests of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company for Australia to develop its’ own petroleum deposits. It would lose a market of 200,000 tons a year for its Iranian product, and would become merely a refining company, instead of being the supplier of the Crude oil and having a half interest in the refined product.
The Oil Agreement Act 1920 provided that the oil must be carried in
Anglo-Persian freighters, which were owned by a subsidiary company, and the terms of that freight have never been disclosed. Article 14 (&) of the agreement provided not only for the refund of any customs duty paid by the company but also for a guarantee of protection in the form of duty, if needed. Why should a company in .that favoured position be anxious to promote the development of independent oil supplies by this country?
The largest oil concessions in Papua are in the hands of the Australasian Petroleum Company Limited, in which the shareholding interests are the Shell Oil Company of Australia Limited, the Vacuum Oil Company Limited, which is cue of the Standard Oil group of America, the Oriomo Company, a subsidiary of Oil Search Limited, which is another subsidiary of the Vacuum Oil Company Limited, and the D’Arcy Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. William Knox D’Arcy, an Australian, made the original discovery of oil in Persia, and obtained the concession from the Shah. Those foreign oil companies hold concessions which total some 20,000 square miles in Papua.
Oil was produced in Papua as far back as 1914, when shallow wells were drilled to a depth of 200 feet on the Vi-lulla River. The oil produced in those tests was actually used in launches. The field was being worked by Dr. Wade when the Anglo-Persian Oil Company took over. That was the end of the operations. The same interests have now returned to the same area. There have been many discoveries of oil seepages in Papua. Geologists say that there are suitable oil structures in the area, and the surveys have been favorable, but the foreign oil companies constantly intrude. What the Prime Minister has said about the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited should be a sufficient incentive for the Government to call for a complete investigation.
Australian companies which have invested their money in the search for oil in that area appear to have run into all kinds of obstructions. Considerable evidence has been shown to me which should receive impartial and thorough investigation. The men in charge had the highest qualifications. One was a topographical surveyor for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and he conducted the original survey. The foreign concerns were given concessions of thousands of square miles, but his company obtained a concession of only 75 square miles. It had also to contend with all kinds of obstructions from the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee. The company alleges that its employees were moved from an area in which they had found live oil at 500 feet. The foreign companies are not in the. same position as the Australian companies. They have to assess the possibility of an area in relation to the yields from other areas, and have to justify themselves on a purely, competitive price basis. They are also governed by world output. If there is an abundance of petrol to be obtained from existing fields, why should they spend millions of pounds in developing new fields?
This Government is in an entirely different position. It must develop petrol supplies, even if they are non-economic in comparison with other sources of supplies. It is not a matter of world parity, or Gulf oil prices. We must have enough to enable us to keep transport moving and to serve defence purposes. Therefore, the search for oil should be in the hands, not of foreign interests, but of Australian interests. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is not at present a satisfactory vehicle for government action. That position should be cleared up quickly. We need ‘ the best experts that Ave can obtain and we must make certain that they are completely independent of outside interests. We must pay salaries that will attract the best oil technologists. The director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources receives a paltry £1,687 a year, the petroleum technologist £1,450 a year, and the chief geophysicist £1,020 a year. How can we expect men on unattractive salaries to direct a. great national project such as the search for oil ? It is a scandal. Some of these men are being paid less than many bricklayers and carpenters are earning. We should get the best, available oil technologists, supply test: equipment and get busy as quickly as possible. We must also be prepared to support any . Australian company which is equipped with the “ know-how “ of oil search. I ask the
Government to give this problem immediate consideration. Several royal commissions and select committees have inquired into oil and oil production. What we need now is an intensive search and production drive. If we fail in this task, the consequences can be disastrous to’ our national development.
.- There will be general agreement with certain parts of the speech which the honorable member for Reid (Mi-. Lang) has made. The task of developing our natural resources, especially in connexion with the matters affected by this bill, is most important. I think that everybody in Australia, irrespective of party political views, recognizes that the present Government is embarking on national projects on a scale that no other government has attempted in the history of this country. However, I pass that aspect by, not because I differ from certain observations that the honorable member for Reid has made, but because it does not affect the immediate practical problem now confronting us. The honorable member’s references to the control of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited were based on certain facts which are receiving the serious attention of the Government. It is an extraordinary thing that neither the Australian Government, although it is the largest shareholder in the enterprise, nor the British Government, which is also a shareholder, is able to exercise sufficient control. That is a matter which is, as I have said, engaging the attention of the Government. ‘I have touched upon the constructive part of the speech of the honorable member for Reid, and with what he said on those points honorable members will be inclined to agree. However, the problem before the House at the moment is much graver and more urgent than the matters that he discussed. It involves our relations with other countries, and particularly our relations with Britain and the British Commonwealth. Some honorable members opposite, notably the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), are prepared, for the sake of what they regard as a political advantage, to injure our relations with Britain and the British Commonwealth. The situation in regard to the dollar shortage, of which petrol is an integral part, is quite simple. Let us consider the position of Australia as a separate and isolated community. For each of the three years immediately preceding the outbreak of war, Australia’s average dollar deficit in its trade relations with the United. States of America and Canada was 36,000,000 dollars. However, if honorable members think that that goes back to a time which is too remote, let us take the last three years, when Australia’s dollar deficits with Canada and the United States of America were as follows: -
Thus, the aggregate deficit over three years has been 291,000,000 dollars.
– Has Australia ever had a favorable trade balance with the United States of America?
– Only when American troops were in Australia, and spending dollars. Australia’s average dollar deficit over the last three years has been more than 90,000,000 dollars. The Leader of the Australian . Country party (Mr. Fadden) has advised the Government to say, in effect : “ We are not interested in the dollar agreement with Great Britain. We are going to adopt an isolationist attitude “. If that policy were applied, Australia would be bereft of any chance to get dollars for the purchase of essential goods. We should be unable to buy petrol, or equipment either, which, as the honorable member for Reid rightly pointed out, is essential to the development of Australia. I mention that fact in order to show that Australia could, not afford to act independently of Britain and the British Commonwealth. Our dollar deficits have been financed by converting into dollars surplus sterling earned by trading with other parts of the world. Before the war, that was simple. The United Kingdom could convert as much sterling into dollars as we required, but now, because of the general dollar shortage in British Commonwealth coun tries, that is no longer possible. The limited dollar resources of Britain, and of British Commonwealth countries, with the exception of Canada, are held in one sterling area dollar pool. If that were not so, the position of Australia, acting independently of Great Britain, would be completely hopeless.
This bill is based upon the agreements made by members of the British Commonwealth in regard to the use of dollars. In the preamble to the bill, it is asserted that there has been, and is, a considerable deficiency in the dollar currency becoming available to Australia for the purchase of essential imports. Does any one contradict that assertion? No contradiction is forthcoming from the Opposition. It is further asserted that the deficiency can be made good only by the co-operation of Australia with the United Kingdom and other British Commonwealth countries in sharing in the sterling area dollar pool. Does any. one dispute that? The preamble asserts further that the additional dollar currency required by Australia is supplied from the sterling area dollar pool by the United Kingdom in return for sterling, on the understanding that Australia continues to co-operate in conserving the dollar resources of the sterling area. That is a condition of our obtaining dollars from the pool. The possession of unconvertible sterling balances does not of itself assure us of dollars. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, we are under a tremendous obligation to Britain and other countries in the sterling area for their co-operation by which Australia is able to obtain the dollars it needs. The fourth point made in the preamble to the bill is that, in view of the intensification of the shortage of dollar currency available to countries in the sterling area, the Government of the United Kingdom arranged a conference to review the dollar currency position. That conference was held in July last. It was not an unimportant conference, but a conference of British Commonwealth nations at the highest level, and it was attended by responsible Ministers. Who were present at it? There were representatives of the British Government, and also of Canada. Although Canada is in the dollar area, it is also a member of the British Commonwealth, and the presence of its representatives at the conference was useful, if not vital. Australia was represented by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). Ceylon was also represented. Ceylon is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and has an actual surplus of dollars because of its trade with dollar countries. However, Ceylon has shown an example that might well be followed by honorable members opposite, and is willing to put its surplus dollars into the pool for the benefit of other members of the British Commonwealth. Other countries represented at the conference were India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. What resulted from the conference is the agreement set out in the bill, which is that the value of imports from the dollar area in 1949-50 should be reduced by the member nations of the British Commonwealth to 75 per cent, of the value of imports from that area in the previous twelve months.
The representatives of all of the member nations agreed to try to achieve comparable results. The Australian Government had no opposition from the Parliament when that agreement was made. It was never suggested that Australia should not be a party to that bargain with Great Britain and the British Commonwealth. Some members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party declaim, occasionally, on the value of Empire co-operation. They say that it is essential for the maintenance of the status of Australia and that it is one of the basic factors in our international relations. That is true. Yet, when we make an agreement with the British Commonwealth they seek to repudiate it. Nothing said by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who, of course, has never suggested repudiation, goes counter to the agreement. It is completely without precedent in Australian history that it should be suggested that an agreement made by Australia with Great Britain and its sister dominions and the British colonies should be repudiated. Yet, some honorable members opposite indicate that their attitude is, “ Tear up the agreement with the British Commonwealth and Great Britain. Never mind the bargain “. They want to buy petrol from overseas, but none of them has told us how we shall pay for it. The attitude of some honorable members opposite is, “Hang our relations with Great Britain and the British Commonwealth “, notwithstanding their political, economic and kinship value. They have adopted that attitude in the hope of obtaining some momentary political advantage. They misunderstand the mind of the people of Australia, as they did in 1943 during the war. Even then, the Leader of the Australian Country party made suggestions about doing away with restrictions.
It is said that we should get rid of restrictions. But the members of the Government are not seeking to impose rationing because we are enamoured of it! Honorable gentlemen opposite argue that we are trying to impose petrol rationing simply to put restrictions on the people. No more absurd or irresponsible suggestion could be made. The Government would not place restrictions on people if they could be avoided. We have to carry out our part of the bargain because our position in relation to dollar currency would be hopeless without the bargain. We get a reasonable supply of dollars. We could let every one scramble for the available petrol. There are two factors in the petrol situation. One is price and the second is availability. If petrol is too dear, rationing results, because only the wealthy can afford to buy it. I believe that many honorable gentlemen opposite would like to see that situation arise, and I have no doubt that certain business interests would prefer it. But, if one looks at the two factors, price and availability, one must realize that the only way in which petrol, which is in short supply, may be properly shared, is by a system of rationing. It is perfectly true that this is an emergency measure. One could not regard the situation as satisfactory if it were thought that it would continue indefinitely. The first point is that we must carry out our agreement with Great Britain and the rest of the British Commonwealth. If we are determined to carry it out, the only fair thing to do is to institute a system of rationing. A perfect illustration of the need for rationing is provided by tea, which is a necessity to every housewife in the country. Because of intervention by the Australian Government, the price of tea in Australia is 2s. 9d. per lb. cheaper than it would be without the subsidy and without rationing.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. How is it possible for the Minister to relate tea to petrol?
– The cases are analogous.
– The very principle of debate is a comparison of methods. The Minister is not entitled to go into a long discussion on tea, but he is entitled to draw conclusions from the rationing of tea.
– I am sorry that tea, another liquid, is- not palatable to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). I am not going to go into details of the tea arrangement but, under it, tea is obtained fairly by the Australian people from one end of Australia to the other. If tea was not rationed and if the price were not controlled, the price would rise to unheard-of heights. Tea is essential to people and, without rationing and without the subsidy, the price would rise to at least 10s. per lb. Tea and petrol are analogous in. this connexion. Ever since the High Court decided that the Australian Government had no’ power to ration petrol, we have seen what private enterprise, plus the profit motive, hai,done. The position is chaotic. because there is no proper sharing of a commodity that is in short supply. The only way in which to deal justly with the position is by reverting to rationing. There -was no objection by the people of Australia to the rationing of petrol when it was rationed. There was no suggestion that rationing should he done away with. No speech was made by honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber in opposition to rationing. No suggestion was made that it should be ended. No questions were asked about it.
– Yes, there were.
– I take it that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) is against rationing altogether.
– Let the right honorable gentleman be fair. He said that no questions were asked about petrol rationing, and I merely said that questions were asked.
– We have made an agreement with Great Britain and the British Commonwealth to reduce dollar expenditure. Consequently, petrol is in short supply and the only way in which the people may get a fair deal is by the reintroduction cif rationing. The very word “rationing” connotes a fair distribution of goods that are scarce. If the views of honorable members opposite were given effect to there would be chaos. Only a few people in the community, and they would probably be those who do no essential work, would be able to get petrol without rationing. Honorable gentlemen cannot get away with such statements as appeared the other day in the press as having been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party, that petrol rationing will go if they have the say. The statement was made expectedly by the Leader of the Australian Country party, but unexpectedly by the Leader of the Opposition, that rationing would go. If rationing went, then our agreement with Great Britain would also go. If our agreement with Great Britain goes, then our d 011,11 resources would not be available.
There is a further aspect of this case that I should like the House to consider, because it goes even deeper than the matters that I have already dealt with. It has never been the practice, either in this country or in Britain, for political parties to adopt a partisan attitude in relation to the affairs of other members of the British Commonwealth. lt is perfectly true that the citizens of British countries may have their opinions on these matters. But we have heard in this House in the last four or five weeks open attacks made by prominent Opposition party members, including the Leader of the Australian Country party and also by several members of the Liberal party, upon the British Government. In other words, according to those honorable members, our fundamental relationships with Britain are dependent not upon the permanent fact of kinship, but upon the accidental fact that a. particular political party is in power. That is one of the most serious things that have occurred in the history of the British Commonwealth. It is most disturbing that we should have attacks in the National Parliament of this country on particular members of the British Cabinet* I say that the British Government, under unspeakable difficulties, has steered the ship of State through perils of diverskinds, not only political, but also international and economic, and that it is deserving of our sympathy and assistance in all its tasks. We should understand that the people of Great Britain aTe supporting the actions that the British Government has taken in the national interests. I think that nearly 50 by-elections have been held in Great Britain in the last, four years and in not one instance havethe people rejected the Government’s; candidate for a seat that the Government: won at the last general election.
I regard this particular problem of.’ petrol as one that can be summed up. quite briefly: First of all, we must keep, our agreement with Great Britain, orotherwise we embark upon a policy of repudiation of our arrangements.. Secondly, we must not break our agreement, because by doing so, we should: cause ruin to Australia, and would then: be in a position in which we should; have no dollar resources available toils. The whole idea, of repudiation’ is foreign to this Government and to itsopinion of what is proper in these circumstances. Thirdly, if we determine that we must carry out our arrangements with Great Britain, how shall we deal with the problem of the shortage? Shall weallow a continuance of the scramble, confusion and chaos that are going on to-day through the absence of regulation by responsible governments, or shall we tryto govern, the country in the interests of* the people? During the war, we had’ exactly the same choice in relation to a vaster field than we are dealing withtoday. We told the people then that it was necessary to do certain things in theinterests of Australia and of the British Commonwealth, and the people supported’ the Government, because they do not like governments that run away from responsibility.
I say, in conclusion, that the PrimeMinister’s lead, his complete frankness- to the House, his determination to keep the arrangement with Great Britain, and Iris continual care for the people of Australia in these matters, are all important factors that will win for him, and for the party that loyally ‘ supports him, the approval of the people of Australia on this great issue at the forthcoming general elections.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- Before the suspension of the sitting the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) made some astonishing statements in criticism of the Opposition parties. As a former justice of the High Court, one would have expected the right honorable gentleman to have been fair and to have quoted correctly the statements that have been made by honorable members on this side of the House. The right honorable gentleman accused members of the Opposition parties of being willing to repudiate a solemn agreement with Great Britain, and of having said, “Never mind the bargain”. I cannot recall any statement during this debate in which any honorable member on this side of the House suggested that we should repudiate any agreement with Great Britain.. Rather have we gone to the other extreme. Evidently, in the eyes of the Government, the parties on this side of the House have adopted the new role of anti-Britishers. Only a little while ago we were thumped by honorable members opposite for being pro-British, as though that were a great sin. I remind honorable members opposite that 75- per cent, of the members of the Opposition parties are ex-servicemen who have made a real contribution towards the preservation of Great Britain. The accusation that we are anti-British is completely false. When, this morning, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) endeavoured to introduce a bill which was designed to give greater aid to Great Britain-
– Order! The honorable member may not refer to that matter.
– I proposed to make only a passing reference to it, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– The honorable member must limit his remarks to only a passing reference. That matter has been disposed of by the House.
– When the right honorable member for Cowper wished to introduce a bill-
-Order! The Chair has already ruled that the honorable member will not be in order in attempting to discuss a matter that has already been disposed of by the House.
– The Minister for External Affairs has also referred to the dollar shortage. Every one knows that there is a dollar shortage. The right honorable gentleman also said that Australia must draw on the Empire dollar pool for its dollar requirements and reimburse the pool with sterling. That statement also is correct. Surely, however, we can earn dollars in our own right and do not have to rely entirely on the dollar pool. We could earn and conserve dollars by increasing our exports to the dollar areas and by reducing the wastage of dollars in the United States of America which results from heavy and, perhaps, unnecessary government expenditure in that country. It has been said that Australia must obtain more of its requirements of petrol from non-dollar areas. I hope to be able to demonstrate how that can be done. Ampol, that most maligned j Australian company, has already shown how it can be done. The shortage of petrol has caused great dislocation of our economy. In my electorate, as in many other parts of the country, shearing has been held up because of the petrol scarcity. As honorable members are aware shearing begins at different times in different areas. In some parts of my electorate shearing must commence immediately; but those farmers who refused to be panicked by statements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and did not put aside stocks of petrol for that purpose are unable to commence shearing operations. Those remarks are true also of fruit spraying. Unless spraying of the cherry crop be carried on continuously at this time of the year, the crop will be seriously affected. Transport of all kinds has been dislocated by the petrol shortage. Even school buses have been put off the run. This is but a small part of the dismal and depressing picture of the conditions that exist to-day because of the lack of petrol.
What is the story of petrol rationing? Four years after the war had ended petrol was still being rationed in this country, notwithstanding the fact that it was the duty of the Government to do everything possible to lift restrictions on the use of petrol as soon as hostilities ceased. The Government continued to impose this restriction until its action was successfully challenged in the High Court. It is the first duty of the Government to find ways and means by which it can obviate the necessity for petrol rationing. We all agreed during the war that the rationing of petrol was inevitable, but since the war has ended the Government has shown no real determination to abolish petrol rationing. Members of the Government appear to derive much pleasure from the imposition of restrictions on the people. The prospect of the re-imposition of petrol rationing must give great joy to this Government of restrictions and shortages.
– The honorable member is too generous to believe that.
– What has been done in the search for oil in this country? No real interest has been displayed by the Government in the search for oil, nor has the search been intensive. The managing director of Ampol has made a noteworthy statement on the subject of petrol which has appeared in the press on several occasions. By no’ means can that statement be regarded as a wild attempt to impress newspaper readers. He said -
The French company which already had contracted to supply 9,500,000 gallons had the hacking of the French Government …
There is no doubt that Australia can get enough petrol from sterling areas to avoid rationing.
That is the whole basis of our argument. He went on to say -
I understand that Australia needs between 30,000,000 and 40,000,000 gallons extra to do away with rationing.
– That is an understatement of the position.
– The statement by the managing director of Ampol continued -
The French petrol alone would account for 75 per cent, of that.
Plenty of sterling petrol is available from European sources but you’ve got to be quick to buy it.
Sometimes you have only 48 hours to decide whether you are going to buy. It’s hopeless waiting for import licences to clinch the deal.
He suggested that the Commonwealth should issue open licences for the importation of sterling petrol, and continued -
The man on the spot can find the petrol, cable or ring his Australian office and get an immediate answer.
But I understand that the Commonwealth Government wants evidence of availability through a cabled offer.
By the time the Government grants the import licence some one else has bought the petrol.
That clear and concise statement of the position was made by a man who should know what he is talking about. The Government should be able to grant import licences speedily. Petrol companies are unable to take advantage of supplies that may be offered unless they are in a position to snap them up on the spot. A company which shows that it is anxious to obtain petrol should not be hindered by the Government.
I propose now to deal briefly with the possibility of an increase of the price of petrol. The Government believes that the importation of petrol from Prance would be uneconomic. The Prime Minister has indicated that such petrol would be so “ pricey “ that bringing it to Australia would not be worth while. It has been stated in the press that the British Government has agreed to an increase of the price of petrol sold in Great Britain by 2£d. a gallon. According to to-day’s press, the Prices Commissioners are considering an increase of the price of petrol in Australia. It would be quite impracticable to reduce the tax upon petrol that is imported from one source without reducing the tax upon petrol that is imported from other sources, and I do not suggest that that should be done, but I do affirm that a subsidy should be paid upon petrol from areas in which high costs are unavoidable. Such a subsidy would keep petrol at its present price level, and also encourage oil companies to endeavour to obtain additional supplies. The Government has shown no business sense or ability in relation to petrol. The Prime Minister stated yesterday that last year France purchased from Australia £40,000,000 worth of goods more than we bought from France. He said that he made no apology for endeavouring to purchase goods from France, because the French must earn sterling and dollars. However, in spite of that declaration, the Government has made no real attempt to buy petrol from France.
Another illustration of the Government’s lack of business ability is that for a number of years it has allowed Australian wool to be sold by continental countries, at a discount, for dollars. The Government admittedly has protested to those countries, but has made no real attempt to stop the practice.
– How does the honorable gentleman suggest that we should stop it?
– By entering into agreements with those countries under which they would supply us with petrol in return for wool.
– What should be done if the continental countries refused to enter into such agreements?
– If they wanted our wool badly, they would enter into them. The abandonment of petrol rationing would mean that a large army of rationing officials could be more usefully employed. It would also mean that petrol racketeers and black marketeers would be forced out of business. Do not let us be hypocritical and pretend that they do not exist. Petrol rationing encourages racketeers to set up printing presses for the production’ of forged petrol tickets. It makes honest men and women dishonest and forces them to break the law to obtain the petrol that they need. How many persons have borrowed petrol tickets from friends who have a few to spare? Doubtless a number of honorable members of this House have done so, although, technically, such a practice is illegal. Under petrol rationing, honest men and women have to act dishonestly to get a reasonable quantity of petrol. Many persons perjure themselves so that they may be enabled to carry on their business. They make a good story a little better. Those are the evils of rationing. They can be avoided, however honest people may be normally, only by the abolition of petrol rationing.
The Government has estimated that petrol imports would need to he increased by only 15 per cent, to avoid the necessity for petrol rationing. I point out that there has been no real chance to test the accuracy of that estimate, because unrationed petrol has not had a fair go. I should have thought that the Government would welcome the abolition of petrol rationing, because an increase of petrol imports by 15 per cent, would increase the national revenue by £2,000,000 a year.
It has been said that there is equality of distribution of petrol. The average consumption of petrol in Canada for each vehicle is 726 gallons a year. In India it is 644 gallons a year, in South Africa, 612 gallons a year, and in New Zealand, 385 gallons a year. Australia is an “ also ran because the average annual consumption of petrol by each vehicle in this country is only 300 gallons. Recently the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice, the following question: -
The months from January to May were months in which petrol rationing was in force. From June until the present time petrol has been unrationed. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) supplied the following answer to the question : -
The average monthly consumption of petrol by the Commonwealth Government and its departments from January to May, 1949, was 091.877 gallons.
Then the answer sets out the figures for each of the . months from January to May. It continues -
The consumption during June, July, August and September, 1949, was: June, 800,339 gallons; July. 942,740 gallons; August, 883,187 gallons; September, 802,1 59 gallons.
That is a monthly average of 857,000 gallons. In order to be fair, I must point out that it is stated in the answer that the consumption of petrol by Commonwealth departments in recent months has been abnormal, because of the coal strike, which affected consumption for the months of June, July and August. During those months hundreds of vehicles had to be sent long distances with mails that would normally have gone by rail. However, the fact is that under rationing the average monthly petrol consumption by Commonwealth departments was 691,877 gallons and, without rationing, it was 857,100 gallons. That is an increase of 165,000 gallons a month. In September, when the coal strike was not in progress and when petrol was scarce, Commonwealth departments used 802,159 gallons, or 110,000 gallons in excess of the average monthly consumption under rationing. To be fair, I have selected a month during which the national economy and transport services were not disrupted’ by a coal strike, and that period provides a clear example of the effect of the Government’s call to the nation to conserve petrol stocks. The attitude of the Government towards rationing is summed up in the last paragraph of the reply that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel gave to the questions that had been asked by the honorable member for Fawkner. The Minister stated -
Every precaution is being taken to ensure that petrol is used only for essential transport in Commonwealth vehicles. During rationing no user was left without petrol for essential transport and this applied and will apply, so far as supplies permit, to the Commonwealth Government as well as to other users.
The Government did not give the abolition of petrol rationing a fair trial. The disruption of transport that was caused by the coal strike forced up the consumption of petrol. Road transport, which is always a heavy consumer of petrol, had to be increased in order to convey to cities and towns essential goods that could not be carried by the restricted railway services.
Members of the Opposition have referred’ at considerable length to the fact that Italy, a former enemy country, does not ration the sales of petrol. It seems most unjust that the people of Italy are able to use as much petrol as they desire whilst the people of the so-called victorious countries are heavily rationed. According to press reports, the petrol situation in Germany is not acute. I am not able to vouch for the accuracy of those reports,, but I understand that tourists who visit Germany are permitted to draw 45 gallons of petrol a month. From what source does Italy obtain its supplies of petrol? Why has petrol rationing been abolished1 in that former enemy country? When I was in Italy last year, I noticed that the Italians had excellent modern cars, and that they do not stint themselves in that respect. Italy refines its requirements of motor spirit from crude oils, the bulk of which are obtained from the sterling area.
– Who gave that information to the honorable member?
– It has never been denied.
– I deny it now.
– I suggest ‘that an arrangement could be made with Italy to supply refined spirit to the sterling area. That proposal seems logical and reasonable. Australia, after all, is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and should be entitled to a better deal than a former enemy country is receiving.
According to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) an outbreak of war is not likely during the next five or ten years. That thought is most comforting, and I wish that I could share the honorable gentleman’s optimism. He should be better informed than I am, and should have all the information that is available about the position.
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman acknowledges that.
– I qualified that statement by using the. word “ should “. If the Government is so satisfied that war will not break out during the next five or ten years, it can release some of the defence stocks of petrol to tide over the present difficult period until Ampol is able to import petrol from other countries. That company has been relieving the Government of the responsibility to obtain additional supplies of petrol, and its initiative in that respect is an excellent example of the manner in which private enterprise is able to assist this country. Australia urgently requires petrol for the operation of its essential industries. Any honorable member who travels long distances in the country districts realizes that essential users and primary producers are severely handicapped through the lack of adequate supplies of liquid fuel. A municipality in my electorate has been constantly in telephonic communication with me, stating that it is unable to carry on its essential services. Petrol is the life-blood of this country to the same degree as are steel and coal. Because the output of steel, is substantially less than the productive capacity of the steel works, Australia has been importing supplies of that metal. The Government has not ordered Australian users of steel to adjust their programmes to the local output. After considerable urging by the Opposition parties, the Government has even imported coal. Why, then, does it obstinately refuse to import additional petrol? I am happy to say that next year, the Liberal partyAustralian Country party government will get additional petrol, because we realize that it is essential to the development of the country.
– The purpose of this bill is to ensure, so far as Commonwealth legislative power permits, a just and orderly sharing of liquid fuel amongst the people of Australia while such fuel is in short supply, and for other purposes. The necessity for this legislation arose when the High Court of Australia declared invalid the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations, under which the Commonwealth had been empowered to ration the sale of petrol in this country. The High Court gave its judgment last July, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), aware of the implications of the decision, immediately asked the Premiers of the six States to take prompt action to ensure the re-introduction of petrol rationing. Despite the Prime Minister’s endeavours since July, some of the States have not yet acted in the matter. Their reluctance, or determination not to do so, has contributed in a. measure to the present petrol crisis. More than two months ago, the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, attended a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that had been convened by the Prime Minister for the purpose of considering the re-introduction of petrol rationing. After having heard the Government’s submissions, Mr. Hollway gave an undertaking that Victoria would support any attempt that was made by the Commonwealth to reimpose rationing. Mr. Hollway returned to Melbourne, and a cave led by the Minister for Housing, Mr. Warner, promptly developed in his Government. As the result of that obstruction, the Premier of Victoria has not yet fulfilled the promise that he gave to the Commonwealth. Some of the members of the Victorian Government are opposed to the reintroduction of. petrol rationing, not because they fail to realize the’ necessity for controlling sales, but because they hope to gain a party political advantage from the existing shortage.
Mr. Warner admitted that he was interested in a company which claimed to be able to import ample supplies of petrol from Russia. Following that announcement, the Soviet Embassy in Canberra issued a statement to the effect that if Russia was in a position to export petrol to Australia, its representatives here would be aware of that fact. They emphatically repudiated Mr. Warner’s claim. Subsequent events proved conclusively that Mr. Warner’s statement had no foundation in fact, but had been made for party political purposes. Russia is keeping its petrol supplies behind .the Iron Curtain. Next, we were told that Australia could obtain petrol from Poland, but time has proved that that claim was incorrect. Indeed, all the arguments that have been advanced about the availability of petrol in foreign, countries for purchase by Australia have been proved wrong. The Government has been amply justified. The statements that, have been made with reckless abandon by almost every member of the Opposition do them very little credit. It is now generally recognized that petrol rationing is inevitable, and would have to be introduced no matter what government was in power. A majority of the people who have suffered during the period that petrol sales have been uncontrolled are waiting impatiently for the reimposition of rationing, which will enable the workers and members of the middle class to get some petrol, at any rate.
Members of the Opposition have consistently argued that the lifting of government controls would cure our economic ills. Events have proved, however, that the lifting of controls has contributed nothing towards economic recovery ; on the contrary, it has hindered national development. For example, government control of tobacco was abandoned almost immediately the war ended, but the trade has established its own controls. The trade says who shall get tobacco and how much each consumer shall get, and has even, discussed the issuing of licences for the purchase of tobacco. Recent experience has proved that petrol rationing had the advantage of ensuring the equitable distribution of whatever petrol was available. When rationing was abolished, those who were fortunate enough to be able to buy in quantity did so, while other people went without. In the New South Wales Legislative Assembly yesterday, the Premier said that the oil companies had made available the ordinary quantity of petrol to distributors during the last month, but the distributors, who received the petrol, claimed that they had sold out their stocks. I. have no hesitation in saying that some traders are holding on to stocks in the hope of benefiting from a rise of price.
In spite of the claims of members of the Opposition, the fact is that the dollar pool is limited, and if we spend more dollars on petrol, there will be less to spend on the purchase of other essential commodities. Among other industries, the motor industry itself would suffer. The Government must do the best -it can with the dollars available. Some honorable members opposite have urged that Australia should sell more wool to the United States of America. About twelve months ago, a bill was introduced into the Congress of the United States of America providing for the imposition of an increased duty on imported fine wool. The bill was vetoed by the President, but had it been passed, and had the duty been imposed, it would have further limited our sales of wool to the’ United States of America. The fact is that our sales of wool to the United States of America are governed, not by our willingness to sell, but by the willingness of the United States of America to buy.
Mrt Thompson. - We are not preventing America from buying our wool.
– That is so; in fact, we should like to sell more wool to the United States of America. Much has. been made of the fact that petrol is not rationed in some countries in the sterlingarea. An argument based on that fact isa mere sophism in that it does not convey the whole truth. Whilst there is no straight-out rationing of petrol in France, supplies are allocated in such a way that it is almost impossible for ordinary people to obtain petrol. It is distributed on a system of priorities, and those who have no priority have to pay one-third more for their petrol than those who have. It has also been claimed that’ crude oil is being imported by Italy, a sterling country, and refined there. However, we have not been told how much oil is being imported and refined, or whether it is enough to supply the needs of the Italian people. If that information were at our disposal we should be in a position to assess the position more accurately. This sophism that there is no petrol rationing here or there, in the final analysis, conveys nothing. Whenever the Government has lifted controls over scarce commodities, chaos has resulted. When controls operated every one was assured of getting his fair share. When controls are lifted and prices rise, the people with lots of money can buy all they want and those with little money go without. The Government cannot be blamed for having failed to import petrol. It never has done so. The importation of oil products is the prerogative of private enterprise. Had the Government imported oil products, honorable members opposite would have been the first to challenge it. If criticism for the failure to import oil products is to be levelled, it must be levelled against the oil companies. Much has been said about buying oil products from countries in the sterling areas. Many people interested in the dispute about petrol argue that additional supplies of petrol could be obtained for sterling. That argument was repudiated in the Melbourne Herald last night by Mr. E. N. Avery, general manager of the Shell Company of Australia Limited in these terms -
Mr. Avery cites the example of Venezuela where sterling oil and dollar oil is produced in the same area - but by British-controlled and American-controlled companies respectively.
Another example of the danger of assuming that a sterling area necessarily produces sterling oil is Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf. There, oil is produced by the Bahrein Petroleum Company, which is registered in Canada, but which is wholly owned in the United States. Its product is, therefore, about 90 per cent, dollar oil.
Mr. Avery set out, not to state a case for rationing, but to try to reduce the public confusion between geography and the sterling bloc on the one hand and the intricacies of oil company finance on the other.
In the course of his article, however, he makes several assertions which show his company’s disbelief in the prospect of large increases in petrol supply for Australia . . .
The Government has been criticized on account of Australia’s lack of refining capacity. On that matter, Mr. Avery says -
The crux of the situation is simply that there is not sufficient refining capacity in the world to supply the full need for finished petroleum products. Nearly all countries are short of their oil requirements, and the United States of America is now, in balance, a net importer of petroleum products.
I think that answers claims by Opposition members that, if they are returned to power, they will abolish petrol rationing. New Zealand abolished petrol rationing and, in one week-end alone, in Auckland, no fewer than 475 motor cars and motor lorries were stranded because of lack of petrol. New Zealand had to reimpose rationing. Other countries that abolished rationing had similar experiences. As a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, we have agreed to reduce our dollar expenditure in order to help the United Kingdom. Every other British country has entered the agreement. We are carrying out the agreement. We should be remiss if we did not accept our share of the responsibility to restore the fortunes of the British Commonwealth of Nations, especially the United Kingdom. It was a sorry day indeed when petrol rationing ended. The decision of the High Court may have been good law, but it was bad economics. The people would rather have rationing than be left to the tender mercies of the suppliers. Rationing ensures equity
The people who need petrol may get it. As the result of the scarcity of dollars petrol rationing is an economic necessity. It will restore sanity and justice to a country where insanity and injustice in the matter of petrol are rampant.
.- The controversy about petrol supplies appears to have reached a stage at which the Opposition says that more petrol can and should be obtained, and the Government says that it is unable to obtain more petrol. The Government appears at the moment to be very anxious that more petrol shall not enter the country at this stage. The whole matter has taken a highly political turn. If any private company can now obtain large quantities of petrol, or even such a quantity as the Ampol company has acquired, that fact would justify very fully the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). If private companies were now able to obtain more petrol than the Government has stated can be obtained, the Government would be placed in a very awkward position. It is because of that fact that this matter has become so highly political. I believe that if a man has information about a national matter of this character he should disclose it. I also believe that this Labour Government is not at all anxious at this stage that more petrol shall be obtained by any private company.
– Why does the honorable member think that?
– The reason is simply that, if a private company were to obtain more petrol, the Prime Minister (Mr. “ Chifley) and other honorable members on the Government side who have spoken during this debate would be proved very definitely to have been in the wrong, and the facts and figures advanced by honorable members on this side of the House would be fully justified.
The Leader of the Australian Country party stated some time ago that petrol could be secured from non-dollar areas and cited facts and figures in support of his statements, the truth of which has been proved by the consignment that Ampol has secured from France and by the fact that that company has prospects of obtaining more supplies from that source in the near future. When the Prime Minister was asked whether he knew about Ampol’s negotiations to obtain petrol he said, “ Of course I knew. I signed the import licence.”. But that is all he did know about it. What I want to know is, if the Government knew that Ampol was able to obtain such petrol, why have its representatives overseas, who are costing this country not only pounds, but also dollars, not done something about obtaining such petrol?
– I understood that the honorable gentleman believed in private enterprise.
– I do believe in private enterprise. I also believe that private enterprise in this country is the main source from which the money that is expended on our overseas representation is derived, and that our overseas representatives should do some work towards overcoming the grave petrol shortage from which this country now suffers. The whole matter has become so political that when an honorable member on this side of the House asks a question about it his words are given a meaning different from that intended. Even the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) are guilty of having done that to me. The Prime Minister twisted a question of mine, but I shall not go into that matter at length, because I made it the subject of a short speech on an adjournment motion last week. The Attorney-General said this morning that nobody had complained about petrol rationing when it was in operation, and that everybody had been satisfied until the High Court of Australia had - failed to uphold the Government’s contention in regard to its powers. When I interjected, “Yes, people have complained about it”, the right honorable gentleman twisted the import of my remark by saying, “I take it that the honorable member is against rationing”. He went on to say that no member of this House had suggested, during the period of petrol rationing, that it should be abolished and that people in the country had not complained about it. That statement could be taken as having been made either in ignorance or as au untruth. I believe that the Attorney-
General quite honestly believed it to be true, but was ignorant of what had been going on in this country because he has been abroad for most of the last three years. Other honorable members also have said that nobody in this House complained about petrol rationing. I have only to find in Hansard one speech complaining about petrol rationing to show that it is not true to say that nobody at all has complained. I do not even need to refer to Hansard to satisfy myself about that, because I attend the sittings of this House every day and have heard many such speeches. On the 27 th February, 1947, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked the following question : -
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that there is a widespread feeling in Australia that the time has arrived for the abolition of petrol rationing? Has consideration been given to this matter recently? If so, what are the prospects of petrol rationing being discontinued at an early date?
In his reply the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said in effect that there was no prospect of rationing being discontinued. Of course, that completely negatives the statement made this morning by the Attorney-General, who is second in Cabinet rank in the present Government, when I reminded him that he was on the wrong track and all he could do was to try to twist what I had said and so gain, even from me, a backbencher, a paltry party political advantage. This matter has reached the stage when the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General try to twist questions by honorable members who seek information. Those right honorable gentlemen would not take such a course if this whole matter did not have them on the run.
In my opinion petrol rationing is just another control that the Government has been loath to relinquish. Although honorable members on the Government side have said that during the rationing period’ petrol was not in short supply in Australia the preamble to this bill states that its purpose is -
To ensure, so far as Commonwealth Legislative Power permits, a just and orderly Sharing of Liquid Fuel amongst the People of Australia while such Fuel is in short supply, and for other purposes.
The bill itself shows that petrol has been in short supply because the same ration as is now proposed was previously in operation. There is really no argument about this matter, and as the Leader of the Australian Country party has given most of the facts there is not a great deal more to say about it. Less than a month ago the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) used in this House the following words of which I took a written note : -
When the war was on the Government could have done almost anything and would not have been challenged, but once the danger was over all sorts of challenges had a chance of success.
The guiding principle of this Government is more and more control, and while it is in power petrol will continue to be rationed. Some time ago the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) said in a question to the Prime Minister -
I have received representations from the building industry congress and the hardware merchants in Perth explaining that the limited petrol ration does not permit them to take delivery of materials required for the housing programme in that State.
The honorable member is a responsible member of this Parliament for whom I have a very high regard, and he would not ask the Prime Minister a question based on such information unless there was a sound reason for it. The Opposition has suggested that petrol rationing be abolished and that supplies be increased, but of course the Government will do nothing about that because this matter has become so political. However, I think that it will not be very long before the people of Australia will have very definite proof that the Leader of the Australian Country party is absolutely right in his contention, and that more petrol will in fact be obtained.
Much has been said about the dollar content of petrol costs. The Government is bringing into, the country many things that have a dollar content in their costs. Only yesterday the Prime Minister informed me that the Government was importing rails for railway construction from Prance. If honorable members examine the matter closely they will discover that, through the operation of Marshall aid, the cost of these rails has a fairly large dollar content. Many other commodities come within that category. We have constantly complained that the Government imports goods from the United States of America which are not absolutely necessary. Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister why the allowance of petrol for each motor vehicle should be considerably less in Australia than in other Empire countries. The right honorable gentleman did not give me a straight-out answer. He merely said that the Government runs this country in its own way and that it is not concerned about what other countries do. The Attorney-General said this morning that if we obtain additional petrol the cost of which has a dollar content Australia will be ruined.
– The right honorable gentleman did not say that.
– I wrote down the words as he uttered them. As a matter of fact I invariably write down the words of honorable members opposite when they say things which I think they should not say..’
– The honorable member must indeed be a very busy man.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Order! The honorable member for Parramatta must cease interjecting.
– Australian petrolusers have received an average of 300 gallons for each motor vehicle in use in thi3 country. In New Zealand the average is 360 gallons. If it were possible to provide an average of 360 gallons for Australian users petrol rationing could be abolished.
– Why, I cannot even get sufficient petrol to enable me to drive to my home.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) drives to and from his home every week. If, as he has said, he cannot get sufficient petrol to do so, all I can say is that his car must run on its reputation. Why has the Government made the people put up with such a low average allocation of petrol when motorists in other Empire countries have been able to get almost all the petrol they need? The reason is obvious. The governments of other Empire countries are more progressive than is this Government. No country can progress in .this age unless it has ample supplies of petrol. A new type of tractor, the Ferguson, is now being imported into this country from the United1 Kingdom. Many persons in my electorate who have purchased Ferguson tractors for use in the dried fruits areas complain that they are unable to obtain petrol with which to operate them. Honorable members opposite can well imagine the effect of the scarcity of petrol on the sales of British-made tractors. The petrol shortage has also had a serious effect on the sales of English motor cars in this country. Great Britain stands to lose more by the shortage of petrol in Australia resulting from the restrictions imposed by this Government than it could possibly lose if additional quantities of petrol involving dollar expenditure were permitted to ‘be imported into this country. A reasonable flow of petrol in this country would enable our transport services to operate at the full peak of efficiency and would make possible a great production drive which would be of benefit not only to this country but also to the United Kingdom. The benefits that would flow from increased oil supplies in Australia would far outweigh any disadvantages that might accrue to the United Kingdom as the result of the importation into Australia of additional quantities of petrol involving the expenditure of dollars. This socialist Government of Australia is working hand in hand with the socialist Government of Great Britain. It has said that it does not want to do anything which will harm the United Kingdom Government. The socialist Government of the United Kingdom has already brought Britain to the brink of ruin.
– Order! There is nothing in this bill which relates to the United Kingdom.
– I do not need to canvass this subject unduly, because the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has already clearly stated the view of the Opposition parties in relation to it and the people understand and appreciate the position. I do not believe that the Government is desirous of importing more petrol into Australia at present. I have not heard one honorable member opposite say that our representatives overseas should do their utmost to secure additional supplies of sterling, petrol. The Opposition parties havemade a positive and enterprising approach to this problem. Indeed, they have adopted a nation-building attitudetowards it. On the contrary, the attitude of honorable members opposite, has been, miserable and negative. As the result of the policy of the Labour Government this country has been dragged down week afterweek, and it will finally be brought tothe depths of degradation unless the Government is removed from office. God isblessing this land with a marvellousseason.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to return to the bill, which deals with petrol rationing.
– Unless the Government adopts a more truly national’ outlook and realizes that we are living in a petrol age, this country will soon bein a very bad way. At this late stage in; the dying hours of the Eighteenth’ Parliament, I do not intend to appeal to> the Government to do anything about this matter. I realize that it would be fruitless for me to do so. However, it will not be long before the people will dosomething about it. After they havespoken, the new government which will assume office will adopt the enterprising methods that have been advocated byhonorable members on this side of theHouse.
– in reply - This is the third occasion during thesesittings of the Parliament on which I have spoken on the subject of petrol. The first occasion was when a censuremotion was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The second occasion was when, on the motion for theadjournment of the House, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull)raised the subject of petrol supplies: On the third occasion I introduced this bill to re-impose petrol rationing.. I make no apology for referring tosome of the matters with which I have dealt on previous occasions because those matters are mentioned in the preamble to this bill. The preamble refers to an announcement by the Government of the United Kingdom, at a conference held in London last year, of its intention to reduce imports from the dollar area to 75 per cent, of the value of such imports in 1948. It also states that the representatives of the other sterling area countries represented at the conference, including Australia, agreed to recommend to their respective governments action designed to achieve COmparable results. It states further that Australia has adopted the recommendations of the London conference. That “brief recital of facts takes me back to the conference of British Commonwealth Ministers which I attended in London in July last. I am in a much better position to-day to reply to some of the matters that have been raised by honorable members opposite during this debate than I was on the two earlier occasions when I dealt with this subject, because certain of the documents which resulted from the London conference were confidential until the Washington meeting had taken place. In fact, the basic document at the Washington conference contained the decisions which had been agreed upon by the Commonwealth Ministers in London. The Washington conference “has concluded and decisions have been made in respect of very important matters, all of which were in mind, when I was in London, and which I discussed with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) when I returned to Australia. Accordingly, I feel that I am at liberty to table some of the documents and to quote from others. I have in my hand a complete record of the London conference. Honorable members opposite will no doubt ask me why I do not table that record. I do not intend to do so because it contains matters which are the concern of governments other than the Government of Australia.
– Does the Minister propose to quote from a confidential document ?
– I offered this document to the Leader of the Opposition so that the might know what had transpired at the London conference. The Prime Minister offered to give the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to read all the cables that had passed in con nexion with petrol. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman availed himself of the Prime Minister’s offer, but he certainly* did not accept mine. I think that I have proved my bona fides in this matter. If the Leader of the Opposition had read the document, he would have been in a position to know whether I was misrepresenting its contents when I quoted from it. The Opposition could have availed itself of that safeguard. I am still prepared to make available to the right honorable gentleman either this or any other document in connexion with the London conference or the petrol position. I am not prepared to make the documents available to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) because that right honorable gentleman recently broke his oath of office as a Privy Councillor. Honorable members will know to what incident I refer. Other members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), supported the Leader of the Australian Country party in his refusal to co-operate with the Government in its endeavours to ascertain what, if anything, was to be discovered in relation to the allegations that he had made about allegedly secret documents.
– Order! The Minister should now pass from that subject.
– I am explaining why I am prepared to make certain documents available to the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman was not in Australia at the time of the incident to which I have referred. I feel that I can trust him with the documents because there is no fear that he will disclose any of the confidential information that they contain.
When we went to London we were faced with the position that between the end of the first and second quarters of this year the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area had declined to £400,000,000. While the conference was in progress in London, they declined to £385,000,000, and they have declined still further since then. Every one who has examined this problem recognizes that the gold and dollar reserve of the sterling area should be approximately £500,000,000. Having regard to the drastic reduction of the amount of the reserve, it became necessary for the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions to take every step possible, not only to arrest the decline, but also, if possible, to increase the amount of the reserve. The members of the conference agreed to submit certain recommendations to their governments. I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard this minute of the decisions and recommendations of the Ministers who attended the London conference.
– I rise to order. This is a confidential document. I suggest that, instead of selected extracts from it being incorporated in Hansard, the whole of the document should be tabled for the information of the House. If the Minister is prepared to table the document, I shall raise no objection to extracts from it being incorporated in Hansard. If the Minister is not prepared to table the document, I shall object to the extracts being so incorporated.
– The Minister has asked for leave to incorporate in Hansard extracts from a document.
– A complete document.
– The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) knows that he can either agree or disagree with the Minister’s request. He cannot qualify his agreement.
– The Minister said that he would make certain documents available to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), but that he was prepared to agree to the printing in Hansard of only extracts from the documents. I object to that being done.
– The Minister has asked for leave to incorporate the whole of a document in Hansard. Is leave granted?
– I regret that I have not time to read to the House the whole of this four-page document. It contains a detailed record of the recommendations that the Commonwealth Ministers who attended the London conference agreed to submit to their governments. The action that has been taken by the honorable member for Wentworth shows that honorable gentlemen opposite do not want the truth about this matter to be known.
– I rise to order. I object to the statement of the Minister that honorable gentlemen on this side of the House do not want the truth to be known.
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– The objection of the honorable member for Wentworth to the incorporation of this document in Hansard will not have the desired effect. A copy of the document will be sent to each member of the Parliament.
Paragraph 13 of the document sets out the situation in relation to the dollar earnings and dollar expenditure of the sterling area. It was estimated that next year 2,031,000,000 dollars would be available to the whole of the sterling area for dollar imports, as against 2,717,000,000 dollars for the previous year. That meant that all countries in the sterling area had to reduce their dollar imports. On the basis of those figures, it was calculated that this year the sterling area will not be able to afford to import from the dollar area more than 75 per cent, of the goods that it was able to import from it last year. That is what is referred to in paragraph 14, which reads as follows : - :
In the light of these circumstances they (the Ministers) agreed to recommend to their Governments that each should reduce their demands in respect of dollar imports on the above-mentioned resources in 1949-50 by a proportion equa’l to that already announced by the United Kingdom Government.
That was a reduction of 25 per cent. I continue the quotation -
To the extent that it has not already been done, the representatives present agreed to recommend that their Governments should achieve this objective by immediate action comparable with that already taken by the United Kingdom, by way of stand-still measures, by reprogramming of imports, and where appropriate, by other means.
The phrase “ by other means “ was inserted at my request. It was designed to cover the possibility of obtaining dollar loans or purchasing dollars from the International Monetary Fund. The paragraph continues -
Ministers agreed to inform each other within one month of the measures which their Governments had resolved to take in the light of these recommendations. They also agreed that the situation should be kept under constant review so that further consultations could take place immediately developments appeared to make necessary any adjustment in the measures contemplated above. They further agreed that the rebuilding of the sterling area reserves as quickly as possible was of paramount importance and that they should all make the maximum practicable contribution to this end.
I ask the honorable gentleman to note that last sentence. It was agreed that it was necessary to do more than arrest the decline. By opposing this measure, honorable gentlemen ‘opposite are in fact suggesting that we should repudiate an agreement with the United Kingdom Government. All the governments that were represented at the London conference sent messages to the United’ Kingdom Government to the effect that they had agreed to the proposal. That statement applies also to the Australian Government. “Within 30 days, we had advised the United Kingdom Government that the Commonwealth had accepted1 the recommendation that I had placed before Cabinet on my return to Australia from the United Kingdom. Members of the Opposition are suggesting that Australia, alone of all the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, should repudiate a solemn agreement. By so doing, we should make the position so much the worse for the people of the United’ Kingdom who are suffering such great hardships at the present time.
– We say that Australia can obtain supplies of sterling petrol.
– The importation of the petrol which members of the Opposition say should be brought into Australia would mean that for every gallon imported there would be 1 lb. of meat less for the meat-hungry people of the United Kingdom.
– That is what members of the Opposition think about the welfare of the people of the United Kingdom.
– Nonsense !
– Order ! The honorable member for Wentworth must remain silent. I am sure that he does not want to be suspended at this period of the session.
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction cannot be allowed to get away with such statements as he is making.
-Order! The Minister is replying to matters that have been raised in the course of the debate.
– That matter was not raised in the debate.
– I shall cite figures relative to the dollar cost of petrol that is entering the sterling area. At an early stage, the Prime Minister said in this House, following the receipt of a cable from the United Kingdom, that petrol imports into the sterling area cost the sterling area more than 400,000,000 dollars a year. That was the only information that the United Kingdom Government, would permit the right honorable gentleman to give to the House at that time, but the figure that was given to Ministers at the London conference, of the dollar cost of petrol to the sterling area last year, was 600,000,000 dollars.
– That figure includes the cost of capital equipment.
– I shall deal with that matter. The Leader of the Australian Country party has hardly a feather to fly with now, but he will not have one feather to fly with when I have finished with him.
– He who laughs last laughs best.
– On the basis of the present exchange rate, the amount of the United’ Kingdom currency that is expended on petrol for which we pay dollars exceeds £200,000,000. The Leader of the Australian Country party interjected to the effect that a considerable percentage of that cost was represented by the importation into the United Kingdom of capital equipment for refining crude oil into petrol. Actually, the dollar expenditure on that capital equipment amounted to less than 100,000,000 dollars of the 600,000,000 dollars. The right honorable gentleman may re-examine his figures, if he likes, but I hare the correct information.
– I shall look at the secret document.
-Order! I ask the Minister to ignore the interjections.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party has been interrupting me.
– Order ! The Minister should address himself to the Chair. If he will concentrate on his speech, he will do a lot better.
– I have said that the dollar cost of petrol entering the sterling area is 600,000,000 dollars. It is true, as has been stated by members of the Opposition, that whilst there is a shortage of refined petrol and of refining capacity, ample supplies of crude oil are. available in various parts of the world. The United Kingdom Government is developing its own refineries, and refineries are being established in other non-dollar areas. Refiners in the United States of America, who see the prospect of losing some of their markets, are making a song about the amount of dollars that they will forgo when the new refineries in the non-dollar areas begin production. The American refiners assess the dollar cost of petrol that is coming into the sterling area, not at 600,000,000 dollars, but at as high as ,700,000,000 dollars per annum. When we take into account the fact that more than £200,000,000 sterling is being paid annually for petrol from the sterling area and that the total reserves of the whole sterling area amount at present to a little more than 300,000,000 dollars, which could be exhausted within, say, nine months, we should realize how important it is that the United Kingdom, Australia and every other member of the British Commonwealth of Nations shall do everything possible to prevent an undue expenditure of dollars on petrol or anything else.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and other honorable members have stated that the House has not been given information about the cost of Australia’s purchases of petrol. I shall deal with that matter. The value of all the petroleum products that were imported by Australia last year was £50,000,000, cost, insurance, freight, and exchange, of which the dollar content was 45,000,000 dollars. In other words, Australia expended last year 45,000,000 dollars on petrol. As I shall show, we cannot obtain petrol from the sterling area, and the extra cost of importing sufficient petrol to avoid the need for rationing liquid fuel in this country would be 17,000,000 dollars. That amount of dollars would have to be provided either from the dollar and gold reserves of the sterling area or by diverting some of our present expenditure of dollars on motor car chassis, capital equipment for various industries, and equipment for the mechanization of coal mines and for the new strip mill for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Port Kembla. All those purchases may be described as vital, and every honorable member knows that if we were to divert our dollar expenditure in the way that I have mentioned, unemployment would follow in a number of industries in this country. Two years ago we had to draw from the United Kingdom reserve of gold and dollars no less a sum than 164,000,000 dollars. Last year, we drew 70,000,000 dollars from that reserve. I do not know how many dollars we shall draw this year, but as we have to rely on that reserve to make up what we do not earn ourselves, it behoves us to do our utmost to conserve our expenditure of dollars.
Having placed that general position before the House, I shall deal with a few of the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members opposite in this debate. The honorable member for Wentworth said that milk was being wasted at some place because petrol was not available to transport it to consumers. The honorable member did not adduce any evidence to support his statement. Indeed, he made only a bald statement, which was completely untrue.
– That is not so. This Government completely ignores the welfare of country people.
– The honorable member for Wentworth makes the wildest statements without any evidence to support them, and expects people to believe them. But, of course, the people do not believe them.
– Order ! The honorable member for Wentworth made a long speech. The Minister is now entitled to be heard without interruption. It is a bit late in the day to turn members out now, but I insist that order be maintained.
– The honorable member for Wentworth said that it was strange that petrol rationing was in force in only those countries where there were socialist governments. Obviously, he did not know what ho was talking about. There is petrol rationing in France, and although there is no French Premier at the moment, the last one was a socialist. There is petrol rationing also in Belgium, where a socialist government has been in power since the end of the war.
The honorable member said that defence stocks of petrol should be used for essential purposes. Everybody knows that if the reserve stock of petrol, amounting to 50,000,000 gallons, is released for general consumption, there is no way to ensure that it will go to essential users. It will be available for use by essential and non-essential users alike. The honorable member also said, in connexion with the proposal to buy petrol from Poland, that the Polish vendors had sold a cargo elsewhere because the Australian Government was too slow in making up its mind. That is untrue.
– It is true. I ask the Minister to table the file.
– A little while ago I warned the honorable member for Wentworth not to interrupt, and that warning goes for the Leader of the Australian Country party, too.
– Well, why does not the Minister tell the truth?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party has made his last interjection during this speech. If he makes another, he will go out.
– The Prime Minister quoted from cablegrams to show that, whilst the Australian firm which was interested in this matter said that it could get petrol from Poland, its agents in London were approaching Australian officials there asking them to obtain an export licence from the Polish Govern ment. The Leader of the Australian Country party also said that if less petrol were available there would be less production. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) made an interesting point by interjection, when he asked whether it could be shown that production had declined during the period of petrol rationing. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) said that no petrol was available for shearing, fruit spraying, transport, or even for running school buses. Did any one ever complain during the whole period of petrol rationing that there was no petrol for shearing, or fruit spraying, or transport, or for running school buses? The fact is that, under rationing, there was plenty of petrol for essential purposes, and I believe that it will be in the interest of essential users of petrol to have petrol rationing restored. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that Australia could obtain sterling petrol from Europe, and he added that the Minister who represented Ceylon at the economic conference in London had agreed to reduce the importation of petrol into Ceylon. I have gone carefully through the minutes of the conference, and I find no record of any such promise having been made. The Minister representing Ceylon made the same promise as did the Ministers representing other countries, which was to cut the dollar expenditure by 25 per cent. If one government decides to cut the importation of petrol, and another decides to effect a saving in some other way, that is a matter for the governments concerned, and for no one else. The London conference spent a whole day discussing petrol. We were addressed by the British Minister for Fuel, Mr. Gaitskell, and I quote the following relevant passage from the minutes : -
In answer to Mr. Nash, Mr. Gaitskell said that any additional motor spirit that might be used in New Zealand would have to come direct from a dollar company, by diversion from some other sale which a sterling company was making or from dollar oil purchased by a sterling company. In any case it would represent a (marginal) dollar cost.
Mr. Gaitskell said that there was no truth in the report that because of geographical or transport considerations there might in certain localities ‘be an actual surplus of sterling oil available to particular countries. There might, however, be a small surplus of fuel oil.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to direct the Minister to table the document from which he has been reading extracts. He has not claimed that it is confidential.
– Does the Minister claim that the document is confidential? If he does, it need not be tabled.
– It is a confidential document. I explained earlier that I had offered this document to the Leader of the Opposition so that he could study it, and that the Prime Minister had offered him other documents dealing with the subject. The Leader of the Australian Country party alleged that the Government of the United Kingdom was sending petrol to Argentina. That matter also was raised at the London conference, and Mr. Gaitskell made it clear that the great bulk of the petroleum exports to Argentina from sterling areas consisted of crude oil. I have in front of me a statement of the estimated sales by British-controlled oil companies to countries outside the sterling area. It shows that, for the year under review, sales of aviation spirit to Argentina amounted to 18,000 tons.
– That is refined petrol, surely.
– Yes, but the grand total of oil and petroleum . products exported to Argentina was 4,843,000 tons, of which only 67,000 tons was motor spirit. The Leader of the Australian Country party has suggested from time to time that we could get petrol from here, there and everywhere. First, he said we could get it from Russia; then from Poland.
– I never said Russia.
– A series of very interesting cablegrams on the French petrol position has come in only this morning. The first is from the Australian Ambassador in France in answer to inquiries from Australia. It states -
The Direction des Carburants of the French Ministry of Industry and Commerce state that the Compagnie Francaise de Baffin age is a subsidiary company of Compagnie Francaise des Petroles in which the French Government holds 35 per cent, of the shares’.
On the supply question, the Direction des Carburants state that although France holds certain stocks of petrol, this does not mean that she is in a position to guarantee regular export supply.
– What is the date of that cable?
– The 27th October. These cables were received to-day. Our Embassy in Paris has also sent us another interesting cable dealing with the question whether petrol is sterling petrol or not. We wanted to know where France got its crude oil from. We received the following cable in reply: -
The year 1948: United States of America 400,000 tons, Mexico 90,000 tons-
Both countries are in the dollar area -
Venezuela 1,650,000 tons-
That may be either a sterling area or a dollar area, depending on whether a British company or an American company is operating -
Arabia 1,300,000 tons, Iraq 1,450,000 tons, Iran 750,000 tons, Koveit, Bahrein 1,770,000 tons.
The Leader of the Australian Country party claimed that petrol from Bahrein Island was sterling petrol, but the cost of it turned out to have a 95 per cent, dollar content -
First six months 1949: 50,000 tons, 10,000 tons, 600.000 tons, 2,200,000 tons, 750,000 tons, 120,000 tons, 1,900,000 tons. Supplies to France come practically equally from dollar and sterling zones.
So 50 per cent, of the crude oil going to France comes from the dollar area. The right honorable gentleman claimed that there was not petrol rationing in France. That is not so. The cable states -
Present rationing system for petrol is as follows: - Consumers whose activities are considered to be of prime necessity receive coupons which enable them to be supplied within their quota at 43.20 francs per litre. Other constuners and priority users for nonessential needs can be supplied freely without any limit to quantity at 63.20 per litre.
There is a coupon system which is operated through a two-price system.
– That is a price coupon system, not rationing.
– The cable continues -
As, however, French supply question depends strictly on National holdings of hard currency, one cannot count on a regular established export trade.
Finally, we asked Londonhow the importation of petrol from France by Ampol would affect sterling petrol reserves. Our representative in London, Mr. McCarthy, replied -
They claim that even though import is from sterling source, dollars are involved. In time they were unable to prepare a note on the subject but the mutilated draft which they temporarily left with me includes the following paragraph: - “Every ton of petrol consumed in the sterling area in fact represents an investment of dollars since it is supplied either by an American Company for payment in dollars by a British Company whose oil has considerable dollar content on account of its operating expenses in dollars or other hard currency in respect of equipment, royalties, &c. . . . “
So it is perfectly clear that there is a dollar content in the petrol which Ampol is to import from France.
– Then, why was it granted a licence to import it?
– Because no one could tell whether the cost of the petrol had a dollar content or not. You can have dollar companies operating in sterling areas and sterling companies operating in dollar areas. The only place from which one can learn whether petrol from any part of the world is dollar petrol or not is the Bank of England; and the Bank of England has advised that there is a dollar content of the cost of the petrol to be imported by Ampol. The Government of the United Kingdom was asked whether we could accept the petrol from France or not. It was not clear whether the petrol involved dollars or did not. We were advised that, as the amount involved was so small, we could go ahead, but that if large transactions were involved, the matter would have to be further considered. That has been done, and the investigation has revealed that there is a dollar content in the cost of the petrol coming to Australia from France. But that really does not matter. All the petrol that we could get from France would not avoid the necessity for petrol rationing in the next six months. So it is necessary that this bill be passed to ensure that petrol rationing shall operate again.
The Leader of the Australian Country party said that there was no petrol rationing in Belgium, and the honorable member for Calare mentioned Italy and Germany.
Those countries obtain their crude oil from dollar areas under the European Eecovery Plan. If the United States of America provides dollars for that purpose, we can- not complain. The position in Belgium is very interesting. It has had a socialist government ever since the end of thewar and it has made one of the most rapid recoveries of all the European countries. So much has it recovered that it is classed as a hard currency country. There is a sound reason for that. It obtains a very large revenue from the sale of uranium ore mined in the Belgium Congo.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has asked how we shall be able to ensure a sufficiency of petrol after the 15th November, as petrol is so scarce to-day. There is an easy explanation of that. Last year, when petrol rationing operated, the Government set a quota for the full year. This year, it decided, in order to keep a closer grip of the petrol situation, to issue licences quarterly. We started late and, consequently, had to merge the first two quarters. The period will end on the 30th November. Normally, the quota for the third quarter would become available on the 1st December. We propose, however, to allow the oil companies to draw their quota in advance on the 15th November. That is why we feel assured that, when the coupon system comes into operation again, on the 15th November, adequate petrol will be available to satisfy the requirements of coupon holders.
The honorable member for Warringah said that we should expend more on the production of oil from shale. If we did that, in order to get the necessary labour, we should have to direct labour to the shale oil-fields, and, if we did that, the Opposition parties would immediately attack us for directing labour.
– Encourage the Baerami project, and the people in charge of it will get what labour they need.
– The honorable member had plenty of opportunity when he was a Minister to encourage the Baerami people, but he did not do so to any degree. The honorable member for Warringah also suggested that we ought to take steps to increase our dollar earnings. We have done so, as far as we can, as a government. We have set up a departmental committee with that object in view. Honorable gentlemen opposite, to be logical, ought to say that that is a matter for private enterprise. Private enterprise is trying to increase our dollar earnings, too. It is doing its utmost, and so- are we. The honorable member for Reid asked how many dollars were required. It would require 17,000,000 dollars to buy all the petrol necessary to avoid petrol rationing in Australia next year. There are two ways in which the Government could avoid the necessity for the introduction of this legislation. One would be to repudiate the solemn agreement entered into with the United Kingdom to save as many dollars as possible. The second way would be to divert dollars now used for the purchase of such goods as motor car chassis and capital equipment to finance the purchase of petrol. No member of this House and no reasonable person in the community would suggest that the Government should take either of those courses. If we repudiated the agreement with the United Kingdom, that country’s already bad position would become so much the worse. By diverting our dollar expenditure from the purchase of goods that help to maintain the employment of a great many Australians at the present time to the purchase of more petrol, so that non-essential users should have all the petrol that they wish to have, we should harm our economy.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, with respect to -
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (b), the word “ and “, last occurring, be left out.
– It is rather strange, at this late hour of a dying Parliament after this bill has passed through the Senate, that the Minister has produced a full page of amendments when he knows full well that honorable members have had no time to read the bill and to understand it. He merely rises in his place and says, “ I move that the amendment that has been circulated in my name be agreed to “. If that is not an example of riding rough-shod over the rights and privileges of honorable members, I should like to know ‘ what is. I say to the Minister that even if he proposes to hold the Opposition and the forms of this Parliament in such contemptuous disregard, he should at least, in justice to the people of Australia, who are suffering the disabilities caused by lack of petrol, show the general public some consideration. It appears to me that he has no consideration for the people, because if I had not risen in my place to find out what these amendments are about, the people of Australia would have been held in as much contemptuous disregard as that in which the Minister holds both the Opposition and the privileges of the members of this Parliament. If the Minister considers that the people have a right to be informed fully about matters of this sort, it is up to him now to explain them.
. - The amendment that I have just moved is merely a formal one consequential upon another amendment that I shall move presently.
Amendment agreed to.
. - I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after paragraph (c), the following word and paragraph be added: - “; and (<J) matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act”.
By this amendment it is proposed1 to extend the power to make regulations so as to cover matters necessary or convenient for carrying out or giving effect to the bill. The clause already covers matters incidental to the rationing of liquid fuel, but it does not cover specifically matters necessary or convenient in connexion with other provisions of the bill, such as those in clause 11 which empower the court to issue injunctions.
– The clause reads - (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, with respect to -
The Minister proposes to amend subclause (1.) by adding the following word and paragraph : - ; and (d) matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
It seems to me that this amendment is entirely unnecessary, in view of the fact that this Government can procure all the petrol it requires for the servicing of essential industries and the needs of the people. As we shall prove conclusively at a later stage, this is all so much beating of the air. It is useless for the Minister, at this late stage, to introduce amendments of this character in order to tighten up weaknesses that have been discovered in the original legislation.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That sub-clause (2.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclauses : - “ (2.) The regulations may make provision for an appeal to the Supreme Court of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, constituted by a single judge of that court, against the suspension or revocation of a licence granted under the regulations, and the decision of the court, as so constituted, upon any such appeal shall be final and not subject to further appeal. “ (3.) For the purpose of the last preceding sub-section the regulations may make provision for investing the Supreme Court of a State with federal jurisdiction, and for conferring jurisdiction on the Supreme Court of a Territory of the Commonwealth.”.
This amendment will enable a right of appeal to a Supreme Court to be given to a motor spirit retailer or any other person whose licence under the regulations is suspended or revoked by the authorities administering the regulations. The appeal will be to a single judge of the Supreme Court, whose decision will be final. The suspension or revocation of a licence in the case of a retailer involves serious financial loss to the holder of the licence, and I am sure that honorable members will agree that it is just and reasonable that power should exist to give him a right of appeal to an independent judicial body of high standing.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Removal of liquid fuel from Customs warehouses, &c).
– I move -
That, after sub-clause (2.), the following sub-clause be inserted: - “ (2a.) Where the law of a State relating to the distribution or rationing of liquid fuel provides for an appeal to the Supreme Court of the State against the suspension or revocation of a licence granted under that law, the decision of that court shall be final and not subject to appeal to any other court.”.
This amendment is closely connected with the amendment that was agreed to a few moments ago which deals with appeals to Supreme Courts against the suspension or revocation of licences. That amendment dealt with these appeals in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia to which rationing will extend under the Commonwealth act. In the remaining States of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, petrol rationing, although conducted under Commonwealth administration, will depend on State law. This amendment will ensure that when an appeal is made under State law, just as when appeals are made under Commonwealth law, the decision of a single judge of the Supreme Court will be final. This clause extends and applies to all States and not only to those in which petrol rationing will be carried on under Commonwealth law. Constitutional power to make this provision flows from Chapter III. of the Constitution which deals with the judicature.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13- (1.) For the purpose of enabling a specified law of a State (being a law relating to the distribution of rationing of liquid fuel) to operate, the Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, declare that, on and after a date specified in the notice, the operation of this Act (other than this section and section 12) in the State specified in the notice shall be suspended. (2.) The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, revoke any such declaration as from a date specified in the revoking notice. (3.) On and after the date specified in a declaration under this section in respect of a State until the day immediately preceding the date as from which the declaration is revoked -
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the words “ Minister may “, the following words be inserted: - “, after consultation between the Prime Minister and the Premier of the State concerned “.
This clause empowers the Minister to suspend the operation of the act in a State for the purpose of enabling a State law to operate. It also empowers the Minister to revoke such a suspension. The effect of the amendment will be that these powers will not be exercised except after consultation between the Prime Minister and the Premier of the State concerned. It is expected that at least one of the three States to which the act applies will pass legislation to ensure the validity of the Commonwealth regulations in that State. It is considered reasonable, however, that the power to have recourse to the support of the State law should be exercised only after consultation with the State government, and that the power to return to reliance on the Commonwealth law when the legal position has been clarified should also be exercised only after consultation.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (3.), paragraph (b), after the word “ notice “, the following words be added: - “ (including its operation in respect of any period prior to the date specified in the declaration) “.
This amendment is intended to clarify a legal point which may arise in the event of an attack on the validity of the Commonwealth act. It is expected that in one State at least a State law will be enacted to back up the Commonwealth law in the event of such an attack. A State law dealing with the distribution of liquid fuel cannot validly operate while a Commonwealth law dealing fully with the same subject is in operation in the State. This clause enables the operation of the Commonwealth act in a State to be suspended, and thereupon a State law can validly operate. However, it is not entirely clear from the clause as drafted that such a State law could then validly operate from a date before the suspension of the Commonwealth act so as to enable the State law to back up the past operation of the Commonwealth law. This amendment will remove doubt on that point.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 - (2.) This Act shall not continue in force after the thirty-first day of August, One thousand nine-hundred and fifty.
– This clause refers to the duration of the rationing period. It is interesting because it contains matters which might well be considered not only by this committee but also by the people of Australia who are so vitally affected by the shortage of petrol. This Government has got itself so completely lost in the paths of confusion that it does not know where it is heading in regard to this subject. Surely if its information is as specific and as correct as the Minister claims it to be, he must be in a position to say, that we shall be able to obtain this petrol at approximately a certain date, or that we may not be able to obtain this petrol for any given period because of the short age. The Minister is trying to have a hi: both ways. The Government has said, in effect, “ There will be plenty of petrol available after August, 1950. Therefore, we have provided that the act shall not continue in force after that date, because then it will not be necessary to ration petrol. We know that that is so”. Then, by sub-clause (1.), it has said, in effect, “ There may be something in what the Opposition has said about the availability of additional petrol. Therefore, we shall provide for the act to cease to be in force on a date to be fixed by proclamation “. The act may be repealed in January of next year.
– Or in December of this year.
– It may be repealed before the general election. I would not put that past the Government. There is no doubt whatever that it will do all that it can to catch votes. The Government is having a bit both ways. It is saying to the people, in substance, “We have provided that the act shall not continue in force after August, 1950, but we ask you to notice also that we have made provision for it to be repealed by proclamation before then, if that becomes desirable. You need not worry about this matter, because we are doing all that we can to procure petrol. As a matter of fact, just on the quiet, we shall possibly be able to a’bandon petrol rationing before the election”. In order that the people may know where the Opposition parties stand in regard to the duration of petro! rationing, I move -
That, in sub-clause (2. ), the word “ August “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ January “.
I desire to make it perfectly clear that if the Opposition parties are returned to power at the forthcoming general election, they will ensure that petrol rationing is lifted next January.
Let us consider whether there is any necessity for the duration of petrol rationing to be specified in this measure. When the Minister was replying to the secondreading debate, he referred to Ampol in a derogatory way. The honorable gentleman followed the lead that had been given by the Prime Minister. Ampol, an Australian firm, is said to be so small and insignificant that it cuts no ice in the petrol world. It is in bad odor with the Government because it has dared to claim that it can secure petrol when the emissaries of the Government have been unable to do so. It has been suggested that the French petrol that Ampol has secured has a dollar content. It will doubtless be agreed that there is no dollar content in British crudes, and hundreds of thousands of tons of British crudes are available. Sterling crudes are being supplied to Italy. How does the Minister know that there is a dollar content in the crudes from which this French petrol has been distilled?
– Order! The honorable gentleman must not make a second - reading speech. He is entitled only to make a passing reference to this matter.
– We know that large quantities of petrol can he obtained from France, because Ampol has been offered approximately 30,000,000 gallons at the rate of 4,500,000 gallons a month. If there is no dollar content in that petrol and if the Government issues import licences in respect of it, this measure can be repealed by proclamation long before August, 1950, because there will be no further need for petrol rationing. I point out that French petrol does not necessarily have a dollar content.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is defying the ruling of the Chair. If he continues to do so, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– If we can obtain now sufficient petrol to enable us to meet our requirements, sub-clause (2.) is unnecessary. I am endeavouring to show that we can get the petrol that we require. The Government has stated that the reason why it is not prepared to issue import licences in respect of these large quantities of French petrol is that the petrol has a dollar content. I have pointed out that sterling crudes have no dollar content, and that large quantities of those crudes are available. It cannot be proved that France is not using sterling crudes. I do not believe that the Government would have issued a licence for the importation of some French petrol unless it had been of the opinion that the French are in fact using sterling crudes.
The present shortage of petrol is so acute that transport is not available to take milk to processing works or cattle to meat works.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! ‘ If the honorable gentleman persists in making a second-reading speech on this clause, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am endeavouring to point out that we can import sufficiently large quantities of petrol to enable petrol rationing to be lifted long before August, 1950, and, therefore, that sub-clause (2.) is unnecessary. In my opinion, it is high time that the Government faced realities. Instead of trying to cover up the failure of its emissaries to supply it with accurate information regarding petrol supplies-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I warn the honorable gentleman for the last time that if he persists in making a second-reading speech on this clause I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am not making a second-reading speech.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair has ruled that the honorable gentleman is doing so.
– Clause 14 deals with the duration of petrol rationing. If there were not a shortage of petrol, there would he no necessity for the clause. I shall not develop that matter further. I believe that the information that the Government has secured and which is contained in a confidential document should be made available to the committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The question of secret or confidential documents is not relevant to this clause.
– I submit that that is not so. This bill is based on confidential information that the Government possesses. If it were not for that information
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! There is no reference in the clause to confidential information.
– I am endeavouring to explain that point. If it were not for the information that the Government has obtained from overseas, and the agreement to which the United Kingdom, Australia, and other members of the British Commonwealth are parties, this bill would not have been introduced.
– I advise the honorable member to leave the matter there.
– Unless we have that information we cannot discuss this bill in a proper manner nor can we satisfactorily discuss the proposed duration of petrol rationing.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair will not argue with the honorable gentleman. If he persists in trying to make a seconds-reading speech he will be asked to resume his seat.
– The last words that I uttered were the “ duration of petrol rationing”, which is the subjectmatter of the clause under consideration. I ask the Chair to contain itself, and endeavour to follow my argument.
– Interjections are disorderly, even when they are made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who is Mr. Deputy Speaker, and is now sitting on the front bench. He could not resist calling me to order. Is not that a reflection on the Chair? T think that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are capable of controlling the proceedings of the committee without the assistance of Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Government has used every possible means to prevent the Opposition parties from obtaining the information upon which this bill is based. Therefore members of the Opposition and the general public are prevented from understanding the position.
– I support the amendment. This clause is most important, because it determines the duration of petrol rationing. Therefore, honorable members must examine the reasons for the introduction of rationing. The Minister for Defence has painted such a gloomy picture of the dollar situation and what he described as our inability to obtain additional supplies of petrol, that the Government should not be able to fix a definite date upon which rationing will expire. The honorable gentleman referred to the Commonwealth’s petrol reserves for defence purposes-
– Order! This clause does not contain any reference to defence. The right honorable gentleman is endeavouring to reply to statements that were made in the second-reading debate, and he will not be in order in doing so.
– I insist that my remarks are strictly relevant to this clause, which provides that petrol rationing shall cease on the 31st August, 1950. The duration of rationing must obviously be conditioned by the availability of supplies of petrol. Is not that basic?
– How in the name of goodness can the Government fix the duration of petrol rationing when it has painted such a pessimistic picture of the availability of supplies? Why has the Government selected the 31st August, 1950, as the date on which rationing shall expire? How has the Government been able to assess that day as the safe dateupon which to abolish rationing? I support the amendment because I consider that petrol rationing is unnecessary. The present shortage of liquid fuel is due solely to the Government’s bungling-
– Ampol, the little allAustralian company which has been maligned and defamed because it has stood out against the big oil combines and monopolies which the Labour Government pretends to mistrust-
– Order ! What has that statement to do with the clause under consideration?
– It has a lot to do with the clause.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair asks the right honorable gentleman to relate his remarks to the clause.
– If the Chair will give me a chance, I shall do so. Ampol has just announced an offer to all other oil companies in Australia to take part in the importation of 18,500,000 gallons of French petrol.
– Let the Government laugh that one off.
– Because Ampol would lose money on the deal.
– The managing director of Ampol states that if the hig oil trusts and combines will accept that offer, petrol rationing will not be necessary. The Government has discouraged the attempts by this all-Australian company to relieve the petrol shortage. Ampol has sent telegrams to the big combines in which it has asked them to take their quota of French petrol, and to reply to the offer this evening. The option which Ampol has on French petrol will expire to-night in Paris. How does the Government view that offer? How has it assisted that small Australian company? In view of the offer of French petrol, the introduction of rationing is unnecessary.
– And this bill is unnecessary.
– Exactly. Therefore, every honorable member can support with confidence the amendment that has been submitted by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) on behalf of the Opposition parties. This Government has bungled and muddled the petrol position. It has accused me of being associated with Ampol. I do not hold one share in that company, and I have no interest in it whatever. But I have an interest in “ Australia Unlimited “. This so-called Labour Government, which pretends to mistrust combines and monopolies, has encouraged American and English trusts and has attempted to discourage a small all-Australian company from importing petrol. I invite the Government to accept my challenge, and denounce Ampol for having done what the Commonwealth has neglected to do, which is to look all round the world for non-dollar petrol. Ampol has found petrol and it has a contract, and has offered part of the consignment to other oil companies in Australia. I understand that this afternoon the Minister for Defence referred to me as having violated-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman may not refer to what was said in a second-reading speech in the House. The committee has no knowledge of what occurred in the House.
– -There is no need for this bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The bill is not being discussed.
– Well, there is no need for this clause. Had the Government been as vigilant and enterprising as this Australian company, it would have found petrol, as the company has found it, and there would be no need to introduce a system of rationing to terminate on the 31st August next. Consequently, I support the amendment. We will find the petrol that Australia must have. An Australian company found petrol, but it has been discouraged by the Government.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has moved an amendment to sub-clause (2.), and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has supported him. The honorable member for Wentworth advanced two reasons for his amendment, and they were antagonistic to each other. He said that since I had painted such a black picture of the prospects of getting petrol, the Government could not possibly foresee how rationing could be abolished by the end of August next year. Then he switched from that argument to a totally different one, and maintained that rationing should be abolished in January next. That shows how confused the honorable member is. Then the honorable member threw out some kind of a challenge, although I do not know just what it was about. He knows that the Government cannot itself import petrol. It is true that the Commonwealth could bring the tankers along-side the wharfs, but it has no storage facilities. The storage tanks belong to private enterprise. There is a grave doubt whether the Government could, in fact, import petrol. That has always been done by private enterprise, and if the Government proposed to do it, honorable members opposite would condemn us for socializing the industry.
– Why not tell the truth?
– He could not tell the truth by accident.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister has objected to a statement by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Therefore, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the statement, because it would be an accident.
– The right honorable gentleman must withdraw the statement unconditionally.
– I do so.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party seems to think that the Government should do something about the offer of Ampol to share with other companies the petrol that it proposes to import from France. What could the Government do about it? As I have said, the Commonwealth has no storage tanks. Of course, there is a reason why Ampol has made this offer to the other oil companies, and to the Government which, unfortunately, cannot take it up. The reason is that the petrol will cost Ampol 2d. a gallon more to import than the price for which it will be able to sell the petrol. That price, by the way, has been fixed not by the Commonwealth, but by the State governments acting in concert.
– I must put the Minister right again. The amount is 3d., not 2d.
– That is immaterial. I do not think that the company is very generous in offering to share this quantity of 18,500,000 gallons.
– Of course, it has nothing to do with the people !
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.This is not a “ free for all “. The Chair will take immediate action if there is further interruption.
– The company has made the offer because it is faced with a loss, and it wants the other big com panies to share the loss. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that the importation of 18,500,000 gallons of petrol would make petrol rationing unnecessary in Australia. That is not true. It would be necessary to import an additional 90,000,000 or 100,000,000 gallons to make petrol rationing unnecessary. The right honorable gentleman suggested that the Government had not encouraged those who sought to import petrol from non-dollar areas. The Government has given every encouragement to them, subject always to the condition that the petrol will not cost dollars. It is only because the petrol that Ampol proposes to import from France will probably cost dollars, that the Government is a bit indifferent to the transaction. If it is found that no dollars are involved, the Government will give the company every encouragement.
The amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth is childish. What government would bring in legislation to operate for a period of two months only ? If petrol rationing is necessary, it will certainly be necessary for more than two months. The date at which the legislation will cease to operate has been fixed as the 31st August of next year because it is based upon complementary State legislation that also expires on that date.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Mr,
Harrison’s amendment) toe left out.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P, Lazzarini. )
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Senate’s amendment - After clause 8, insert the following new clause : - “8a. - (1.) A person to whom this section
Applies shall not, directly or indirectly, communicate or divulge any information to which this section applies.
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months. “ (2.) Nothing in the last preceding subjection prohibits -
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
One of the provisions of the hill is that from the 1st January, 1950, the National Security (Prices) Regulations shall be discontinued. One effect of this action will be that persons formerly employed by the Prices Branch, all of whom made a declaration of secrecy under the National Security (Prices) Regulations may be free after that date to disclose information obtained in the course of their duties. When prices control was taken over by the States the secrecy provisions of the National Security (Prices) Regulations were amended to give to the State prices control authorities access to files in the custody of the Commonwealth. This was necessary to prevent duplication and to permit of an easy transition. The State officers who examine such files are sworn to secrecy in the same way as were Commonwealth officers under Commonwealth prices control. There is no guarantee, however, that existing State legislation will be continued indefinitely, hence the need for a standing Commonwealth provision to guarantee that secrecy will be observed by officers who have had access to confidential documents held by the Commonwealth Prices Branch or loaned to State prices organizations. The provisions embodied in the amendment have been designed to cover persons, including new employees, who have or have had, or who will have, access to the records in question, and at the same time be sufficiently wide in scope to embrace the Commonwealth archival authorities who, it is anticipated, may become custodians of a selected portion of the records.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported’; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 2062), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 2063), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The national health of any country has never been dealt with in such a shameless, cavalier and callous fashion as the national health of this country has been, dealt with by this Government. The. handling by the Government of this socalled free medicine scheme has been themost shameful procedure in the history of this Parliament and, I believe, of any parliament in which the English language is; spoken. That treatment reached rtss most shameless apex last night when the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) violently attacked an unnamed doctor of the medical profession-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman may not reply to a debate that occurred in another place.
– I am referring to a statement that appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph this morning.
-Order! The right honorable gentleman is attempting to reply to a debate in another place. He may not do so.
– I merely wish to say that it has been alleged that the Government at no time had stated that it would require the clinical records of patients to be exposed.
– What has that to do with national health?
– It has been dealt with at some length. I have in my hand a shorthand copy of the proceedings of a conference held between the Minister for Health and the British Medical Association on the 26th October last year. It was supplied to me by the Minister for Health himself, and consists of notes taken by the Minister’s own secretary. This is a public document, and it quotes Senator McKenna as having said at that conference-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the bill before the
House. I ask him to do so. The bill is very short and is designed to do specific things. The right honorable gentleman is not entitled- to discuss the general ramifications of the national health scheme or any other matter except those referred to in the bill. He must confine himself within those limits.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to clause 3 that refers to the particular matter that I am discussing, and seeks to repeal and replace section 6 of the principal act. You will see that it covers the matter’ to which I am referring, because section 6 of the principal act is really its substantive part. There are only two sections tha t really matter in the principal act - section 6 and section 22. f these two sections were removed there would be little left of the principal act. This bill will completely alter the framework of the national health service scheme, and therefore it is pertinent that I’ should address myself to the motives that have actuated the Government to introduce this measure. This bill deals wholly with the question of how medical practice is to be carried out and the manner in which prescriptions are to be checked and the payments to be made to doctors. It is interesting to note, therefore, that the Minister for Health said at the conference to which I have referred-
I think for checking purposes it would be necessary that the practitioners keep clinical records of their patients. This is the general practice now and may be a principle. These clinical records would be produced for adjudication in case of dispute. For the purpose of checking accounts from time to time these clinical records would be subject to checking by medical officers of the department and not by laymen.
– By medical practitioners, not by officers.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said in his speech that all that the doctor was asked to do was to furnish a return to show what the patients had been attended for.
– This was-
– I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman is deaf, but when the Chair calls him to order lie should immediately stop speaking. The position is that this is an amending bill which deals with payments to doctors and I shall not allow discussion along the lines that the right honorable gentleman has been pursuing. He must confine himself fro the bill before the House. If we were to open up general discussion on this matter we should get right away from a discussion of the bill.
– I think that you have misinterpreted what I am talking about, Mr. Deputy Speaker. “What I am saying relates to the manner in which the accounts submitted by doctors would bc dealt with. That is the only way in» which-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman must refer to matters contained in the bill.
– This bill has been introduced only to-day and if I am not allowed to deal with the matter that I have attempted to raise, all the discussion will be futile.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is not discussing the bill but is canvassing a ruling that 1 have given. This bill deals with payments only and if the right honorable gentleman wishes to discuss any matter that I consider- to be outside the scope of the bill he must refer to the particular clause to substantiate his right to refer to such a matter.
-So that you will be clear in your mind about this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it is quite evident that you have not read tho bill-
– Order ! That is a reflection upon the Chair and if the right honorable gentleman proceeds on those lines he will- altogether lose the opportunity to speak. I ask him to withdraw his remark -
– I withdraw the remark, but I took it for granted when you gave your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you had not read the bill.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
Question put -
That the bill lie now road a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Woes . . . . . . 15
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Scheme of sickness benefits or medical services).
– This clause is designed not so much to give effect to the provisions which it contains as to provide the Government with election propaganda. It is designed to encourage doctors-voluntarily to come into the scheme so that the Government may be able to offer the people a semi-free medical scheme on the eve of the election. This legislation, and this clause in particular, is evidence that there is still disagreement between the Government and the members of the medical profession, and that the Government has not yet taken the practical course of reaching agreement with medical men so that it will be able to present to the people a truly effective national health scheme. Had such an agreement been reached there would have been no need for the Government to introduce at this late stage this modification of the existing legislation in an effort to induce doctors voluntarily to participate in the scheme. The principal act, which provides for the payment by the Government of one-half of the fees charged by doctors, was passed last year, but it has not operated because it was placed on the statute-book against the advice of the doctors who, after all, are the experts in matters of public health. The doctors were not prepared to cooperate in what they regarded as a medicine scheme that was free in name only. I shall make but a passing reference to the fact that had the Government agreed to accept the British Pharmacopoeia instead of the formula which it adopted in connexion with this legislation there would have been no need whatever for the introduction of this amending legislation.
– I have said that I desire to make only a passing reference to that matter. I have no desire to transgress the Standing Orders. As the result of the Government’s failure to reach agreement with the doctors by accepting the British Pharmacopoeia it is now rushing through amending legislation to woo the doctors to co-operate in the scheme so that it may be able to present the scheme in some sort of working order to the people during the election campaign. When this legislation was originally before the Parliament the Opposition said that it should be withdrawn until an agreement had been reached with the doctors for the provision of a truly free medical service. The Government refused to take that course. The original legislation was designed to force doctors to come into the scheme as the prelude to tlie establishment of a completely nationalized health service.
– Order ! The honorable member may not pursue that line of argument. The clause before the committee relates to the payment of fees to doctors for medical services rendered by them.
– I do not want to read the whole of clause 3 because it is a lengthy one. Briefly proposed new section 6 provides that the regulations may make provision for the establishment, maintenance, conduct and operation of a scheme for the provision of sickness benefits or medical services by way of payments by the Commonwealth iti respect of professional services rendered by medical practitioners. It provides that a scheme established under the section may define the circumstances in which people shall, or shall not, be entitled to benefits or services under the scheme, and may provide for participation in the scheme by medical practitioners in respect of particular classes of the services. It also provides that the maximum fees to be charged by medical practitioners who participate in the scheme shall be fixed by, or assessed under, the regulations. Proposed new sub-section (3.) deals with the reduction of a maximum fee fixed by the regulations. Proposed new sub-section (4.) deals with arrangements between medical practitioners and societies or persons and provides that the Minister may make arrangements for the provision by the Commonwealth of sickness benefits or medical services in lieu of the benefits or Services provided for under those arrangements. The provisions of proposed new sub-sections (5.) and (6.) widen the scope of the legislation still further. Surely the wording of the clause gives me sufficient scope to deal with the matters which I have endeavoured to bring before the committee. This amending legislation contains nothing which alters the objectionable features of the principal act. Indeed, the clause which the committee is now discussing highlights the very features of the principal act to which we so strenuously objected and, in particular, it provides that medical services all be provided by way of regulation. The principle of government by regulation, which is the principle that is adopted in this bill, is a dangerous one, because it enables regulations to be made without recourse to or discussion by the Parliament. Honorable members have only to examine the bill quickly to see the extraordinarily extensive regulationmaking powers that are proposed to be conferred under the measure. The regulations that will be made under this measure may revolutionize our medical services in such a way as to prevent the Australian people from securing the medical benefits for which they are paying by means their social services contributions. The Government should ensure that the medical services that are available to the Australian people are the best possible, but I do not consider that the regulations that will be made under this measure will achieve that objective. It is indicative of the Government’s desire to use this bill as election propaganda that it has been brought down in the dying hours of the Parliament, with polling day approximately only six weeks away. It would appear that the Government intends to rush the bill through the Parliament and immediately to gazette regulations ‘so that it will be able to say to the people, on the election eve, “ This is part of the record on which we stand “.
The regulations that will be made under the bill to fix the fees that shall be charged by medical practitioners for their professional services will strike at the very heart of the medical profession. The Government proposes to refund to patients 50 per cent, of those fees, but it also proposes to determine what fees shall be charged. Is it the intention of the Government that the fee that a newly-qualified doctor is allowed to charge for his services shall be the same as the fee that a surgeon of many years’ experience is to be allowed to charge? Is it the intention of the Government to provide by regulations that the fee of a specialist shall be the same as the fee of a lad who has just left a medical school? If that is so, what incentive will there be for doctors to specialize in certain branches of surgery or medicine or to do post-graduate research ? The whole thing is ridiculous.
The Government’s proposal to establish a nationalized medical service of this kind will do more to undermine the skill and proficiency of medical practitioners than any of its other actions. The proposal is wrong in principle, and I do not believe that the people will accept it. Despite the “ blah “ in which the Government will indulge during the election campaign, this scheme will be received with the same coldness as the “ free bottle of medicine” scheme was received.
.- This clause will confer upon the Government the power to make regulations. It provides for the repeal of section 6 of the principal act, which is the operative provision of that measure, and for the insertion, in its stead, of a new section. The new section will not remain in existence for very long. In February, when the Labour party is in Opposition with its tail between its legs, the whole scheme will be wiped out of existence. The proposed, new section is based upin a bad principle, to which objection was raised when the National Health Service Bill 1948 was being discussed. The view of almost every medical practitioner is that the matters which, under the proposed new section 6, will be dealt with by means of regulations, should be stated specifically in the legislation. “When the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) was speaking to the motion for the second reading of this bill in the Senate, he said -
The main purpose of the bill is to amend section (3 of the National Health Service Act 1948 … In framing the regulations, however, it has become apparent that with section 6 in its present form, payment for medical services would be rigidly and literally limited to those items that are expressly referred to in the schedules of the regulations.
I assumed that many regulations had been made under that act, but I have discovered with pleasure that not one has been gazetted. Honorable gentlemen will recall that about a year ago the House sat for almost the whole of one night discussing that measure, which was said to be extremely urgent. The national health service scheme was to be administered by regulations, but as yet no regulations have been made, and I do not believe that any regulations will be made before the general election. That will mean that the new government will be able to start with a clean sheet and geton with the job.
If the Government really desires that a national health service scheme shall operate in this country, sooner or later it must reach agreement with the medical profession. It is obvious that such a scheme can only be carried into effect by medical practitioners. The members of the medical profession have stated that the principle upon which they insist is that an essential ingredient of a national health service scheme is that it must be such that it cannot be altered at the whim of the Government of the day and that its principles must be set out in legislation so plainly that they cannot be misunderstood and cannot be changed except after an open discussion by the Parliament. We have not had too open a discussion to-day in relation to this matter. Honorable members are not permitted to discuss a matter in this chamber in the same way as honorable senators have been allowed to consider it. However, we shall have other opportunities. To-day, the Government has dealt two severe blows to its prospects of being returned to the treasury bench at the forthcoming general election. Its first mistake was to prevent me from submitting a motion in which I recommended that a gift of food be made to the United Kingdom.
– Order! The right honorable member is not in order in referring to that matter.
– I return to the clause under consideration. The doctors insist that they must abide by tha principle which I have mentioned, and their attitude is perfectly reasonable. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who is keenly interested in the conditions of waterside workers, will recall that the Stevedoring Industry Act provides specifically what shall be done in that industry. Those matters have been determined, not by regulation, but by the Parliament itself, in open debate. One Minister did not vote in a division on the bill, because he did not agree with the principle that was embodied in it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order ! The right honorable gentleman must relate his remarks to the clause under consideration, and must not digress.
– I am comparing the bill with the Stevedoring Industry Act in order to give added emphasis to my contention that proposals for the conduct of the national health service should be set out in this legislation, and should not be left for determination by regulations. The doctors realize that they are not the favorites of the Government, but they consider that they should receive the same measure of justice as has been granted to the waterside workers. I have always admired your insistence, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the provisions of certain legislation should be determined by the Parliament, and should not be fixed by regulation. I regret that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is retiring from the House of Representatives. Throughout his long parliamentary service, he has maintained a reputation of integrity and uprightness
– The right honorable gentleman’s compliments are all very well, but they are not relevant to the clause.
– -I may not have another opportunity to pay my tribute to the honorable member for Batman. I have differed with him on many political matters, but I have always admired his uprightness and consistency in upholding our democratic parliamentary system. He has always advocated that various matters should be dealt with nol by regulation but by legislation. I regret that the honorable gentleman is retiring, and I wish him a long life and happiness. If you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, were retiring, I should express the same sentiments about you as the result of our long association.
The doctors will not be parties to a scheme that is controlled by regulation. The schemes in operation in the United Kingdom and New Zealand are controlled by acts of Parliament, and not by Ministers of Health, under their regulationmaking powers. A regulation to which medical practitioners might object, might remain in force for many months before the Parliament met and honorable members had an opportunity to submit a motion for its disallowance. The Government’s plans for the national health service should be set out specifically in this bill. If the doctors refuse to co-operate, the system cannot function and so the matter of payments will not arise.
I come now to the second principle upon which the medical practitioners insist. They contend that the relation between doctor and patient is personal, intimate and confidential, and they refuse to submit their clinical records to other persons for scrutiny. Is that request unreasonable? Doctors and patients are in favour of it. Patients tell their doctors in confidence intimate details that they would not dream of mentioning even to their closest friends, and that kind of information should not be committed to paper. The doctors have already submitted proposals for a scheme that will operate satisfactorily without the supervision and “ snooping “ that is proposed by the Government. I recall that on the 1st July, 1943, the Social Security Committee presented to the Parliament a report which embodied the submissions that the British Medical Association had tendered in evidence on the 12th September, 1941, and again on the 6th March, 1943. The medical profession is prepared to work under that scheme immediately if the Government will adopt it. The Government should *ay to the doctors, “We realize that the relation between doctor and patient is inviolate and sacred. We recognize that for many years, the doctors have borne the responsibility of treating the poorer sections of the community without charge. We agree to incorporate in the act the scale of payments that may be made “. The Government’s proposals in that respect are unsatisfactory. What the Minister for Health may determine under his regulation-making power will not matter two hoots if a regulation is challenged before the High Court of Australia. The High Court bases its judgment on the wording of the act and not on a promise that a Minister has made to the Parliament. The doctors object to the Government’s proposal to operate the national health service by regulation.
The relation between doctor and patients must be maintained if the best traditions of the medical profession are to be preserved and if the best treatment is to be ensured ,for patients. After all, that should be the principal objective of a national health service, but the Government advocates a system under which people will queue up for treatment and be served with nostrums free of charge. One of the objectives of a national medical service should be to improve the health of the people.
I am gratified that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) is at present in the chamber because he was the chairman of the Social Security Committee which presented to the Parliament the report to which I have referred. The honorable gentleman will admit that the British Medical Association assisted that committee in every possible way. He nods his head in assent. The British Medical Association has been accused of having adopted an unco-operative attitude, but that kind of allegation is completely false, and wicked. The people themselves do not believe it, and that is the reason for the apathy of the public to the Government’s proposed national health service. I assume that the regulations that will govern the operation of the scheme have not yet been drafted, and I beg the Government, even now, to heed the representations that I have made cn behalf of the medical profession. It has taken the Government seven years to hammer out the present scheme, and during that period, it has received a number of setbacks. At one period, the Government went beyond the limits of its constitutional power, and the High Court declared invalid the vital sections of the National Health Service Act. On another occasion, the Government did too little, and the scheme was unacceptable. I urge the Government to turn for advice to the medical practitioners who have at heart the improvement of the health of the people of Australia. The British Medical Association insists upon maintaining the highest ethical standard of conduct, and opportunities are given to doctors to qualify for high medical and surgical degrees so that they will have the latest knowledge of methods of treatment. The general standard of the medical profes sion in Australia is as high as is that of any other country. World War I. provided a real test . of the proficiency of Australian doctors. At three casualty clearing stations, three doctors who had practised in country districts were selected to perform the most difficult surgical operations. That appointment recognized their outstanding ability. National health should be independent of parties. In my dealings with State departments of health I have been struck by the fact that they have been able to establish a valuable tradition in their dealings with the medical profession. When an all-party parliamentary committee brought in its recommendations on the repatriation scheme, an opportunity presented itself to lay the foundations of a national medical health scheme. The Government, however, wants its own scheme, and it is beginning at the wrong end.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The right honorable gentleman is getting very close to making a second-reading speech.
– The payment of doctors under the Government’s scheme must hear a proper relation to the duties they are called upon to perform. For instance, the payment that is proper for a. general practitioner would not be the same as the payment that is proper for a specialist. In any case, before deciding upon payments, we should be sure that we are able to get properly trained men. Under the present system, it has been possible to attract to the medical profession some of the finest brains in the world. There is a freemasonry amongst medical practitioners that operates in every country, and is not affected by race or language. It would not be possible to establish the same tradition amongst medical officers who worked only their eight hours a day. The first consideration is the health of the people. A doctor cannot leave a very sick person, or a woman in labour, simply because the clock strikes four. The important question is whether payment should be in the form of a salary or a fee for service. I feel strongly that if the best results are to be achieved there should be something in the nature of incentive payments to doctors, nurse9 and all those associated with the medical profession, in order to encourage them to become proficient. You yourself, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as’ a senior member of this House, will acknowledge that an important scheme of this kind should not be inaugurated by regulation, but that the Government should bring down legislation dealing specifically with the scheme. Conditions are constantly changing, and only the other day the British House of Commons passed legislation which altered the method of paying chemists for their services under the national health scheme.
– This is a national health service bill, not a pharmaceutical benefits bill.
– The Minister seems to think that matters pertaining to national health can be put into separate compartments. In fact, they are all part of the same purpose, which is the preservation of the health of the people.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The clause which the committee is now considering is the vital clause of the bill in that it provides for the repeal of section 6 of the principal act, and the substitution therefor of provisions which, in effect, amount to an entirely new piece of legislation. I am sorry that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is a former Prime Minister as well as a distinguished surgeon, has not had a better opportunity to expound his views on this matter. Now, in the dying hours of the session, we are asked to approve of a new piece of legislation which touches upon the institution of a national health service. Of course, the Government has the numbers, and the bill will be passed. The first bill, which has since become the principal act, was introduced in the small hours of the morning during an all-night sitting, and was whisked through in a most unorthodox manner. It is strange that the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) should have sought so little expert advice on so important a measure as this is. The bill provides that the Minister for Health, or his deputy, the Director-
General of Health, may make regulations affecting the lives of all Australian citizens. The British Medical Association, which is an honorable body, commented in a recently published booklet on the Government’s proposals as follows: -
The Government has questioned the good faith of the medical profession, rejected its advice, and broken off negotiations for the provision of a national health service acceptable to all parties. Accordingly, this booklet is published to set forth the health policy for the nation being advocated by doctors and to illustrate how far the present Government’s scheme falls short of requirements.
There is a foreword to the publication by a very distinguished surgeon, of whom Australia may be proud. I refer to Mr. Victor Hurley, formerly Air ViceMarshal Hurley. He points out that the British Medical Association i3 a non-political organization concerned only with the welfare and good health of the people. We know that the Minister for Health has conferred only twice with the British Medical Association over the Government’s national health service proposals. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who is now at the table, is always at the beck and call of the trade unions, but there have been only two brief conferences between the Minister for Health and the British Medical Association. At one of those conferences, the Minister was indiscreet enough to say that the aim of the Government was to eliminate private medical practice. Sub-section 6 of the proposed new section 6 states that nothing in the section authorizes any form of civil conscription. Was there ever greater humbug and hypocrisy put into a bill than that? The British Medical Association recently contested the validity of the principal act and the High Court ruled that it imposed civil conscription on doctors. So with a great deal of its common cunning the Government put into the legislation the short provision -
Nothing in this section authorizes any form of civil conscription.
Yet the bill prescribes the most severe penalties for the most trifling offences. How can the Government claim that this bill does not still impose civil conscription on doctors? One should read the last paragraph of the introduction to the manual A National Health Service, issued by the British Medical Association, and written by that fine surgeon Victor Hurley, which states -
The doctors are willing and ready to cooperate with the Government in a national health service, and they believe that such a service can be given to the people on a democratic basis, without forcing doctors to be subject to control and direction of their professional work by government officials. They object to being coerced into a regimented service and demand the right to practise their profession as free individuals.
Yet the Government, in the dying hours of the Parliament, brings down a bill which is merely propaganda. “We well know how the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) will use it.
– One may use one’s imagination.
– One may not do so in this connexion.
– Then let us be factual.
– The honorable member will deal with the clause or sit down.
– The clause states-
Section six of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - “6. - (1.) The regulations may make provision -
for or in relation to the establishment, maintenance, conduct and operation of a scheme for the provision of sickness benefits or medical services by way of payments by the Commonwealth in respect of professional services renderedby medical practitioners;
Section 6 is the main part of the principal act. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) accepted an amendment to the bill relating to the social services referendum that was submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). It provided that there should be no civil conscription. Even so, the Government is still trying to conscript the doctors. The Government has tried to bring the doctors together like “vets” to treat men, women and children as members of a herd. The Minister for, Health (Senator McKenna) thinks that the people may have only official diseases and that they may be treated only with official medicines. Proposed new sub-section 6 (2.) (a) is also objectionable. It reads -
Without prejudice to the generality of the last preceding sub-section, a scheme established under this section may-
The word “ scheme “ is appropriate -
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had pointed out that this clause contains a substitution for section 6 of the principal act, which includes full power to make regulations. I had pointed out that sub-section (6.) of the proposed new section 6 states -
Nothing in this section authorizes any - form of civil conscription.
I emphasize that the Government lost its case before the High Court on this very issue of civil conscription, yet it intends to continue, by simply inserting a few lines in the act, to carry out a form of civil conscription. A doctor can still be fined £50 if he transgresses against the provisions of the act. The Government hopes that it will get away with this measure because it has brought it down in the last hours of the Parliament. This bill, however, is just a part of the socialist plan. The white-haired boy of the socialists in the Senate is the Minister for Health, who sponsored this measure. It was he who endeavoured to explain away the socialist policy of the “ socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange” by saying that the Government would only nationalize those services which were socially undesirable and which were being used to exploit the people.
Are the medical fraternity socially undesirable? To judge from this measure they are in the category of the condemned! The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) often says that any one who wants to know anything about coal should go to the coal-miner to find out what he wants to know. On the same reasoning any one who wants to understand anything about medicine and surgery should go to the medical profession to find out what he wants to know. The Government should not try to conscript and regiment doctors into a government pattern.
I also direct attention to the fact that sub-section (2.) (c) of the proposed new section will - provide that maximum fees to be charged or received by medical practitioners participating in the scheme in respect of professional services to which the scheme applies shall be the fees fixed by, or assessed under, the regulations as in force from time to time.
So the Government intends to establish prices control of surgical operations and of medicine. I am not a constitutional lawyer but I consider that it has not the constitutional power to do so. This is, perhaps, another of those legal blunders put forward by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that have cost the country hundreds of thousands of pounds in court appeals. The Government lost the referendum on prices control and yet in this bill it intends to lay down the maximum price that a doctor may charge for an operation. Sick men or women desire to choose a doctor for themselves and they will not be satisfied with anybody the Government sends along. Will not the maximum fee become the minimum?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time . has expired.
– I was rather surprised this afternoon at the continued opposition to the national health scheme that came from honorable members opposite. We know that great exception was taken to the principal act when it was before this chamber. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) no doubt considers that as a medical man he has quite an extensive knowledge of medical services. I do not desire to dispute that because I know that he has had a lot of experience. But this bill does not deal with the qualifications or experience of medical practitioners. It is designed to give the Government power to make regulations. I should say to the right honorable member for Cowper that his statement this afternoon that this bill will destroy the Government merely reflects his opposition and the opposition ofthe medical profession to the desires of the Government. I did not quite understand the full meaning of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks, but it appeared that he thought that we should provide a schedule of payments in the bill. I do not think that we, as members of this Parliament, would be able to determine what a reasonable fee would be in each case.
– That is laid down in every lodge agreement.
– It is not laid down in every lodge agreement. Lodge agreements lay down that ordinary medical services are rendered free of charge. I refer to such services as those rendered in the case of illness or fever, or something of that nature. I have been closely associated with friendly societies in South Australia for many years and I do not know of any schedule of fees in lodge agreements.
– We have thern in New South Wales.
– The right honorable gentleman states that there is a schedule in lodge agreements in New South Wales-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! There is nothing about friendly society agreements in this bill.
– With all clue respect I shall quote sub-section (4.) of the proposed new section 6 that refers to friendly societies. It states -
Where an arrangement exists between a medical practitioner and a society, bodyor person under which professional services are rendered by that medical practitioner . . .
That shows very definitely that this bill is connected with friendly societies.
– That was what I was saying when I was ordered to resume my seat this afternoon.
– If the right honorable gentleman had read the bill as carefully as I have done he would not have been asked to resume his seat. I do not intend to wander away from the bill as he did in his speech this afternoon. The objection of the right honorable member is to the regulation providing for fees.
Sir Earle Page interjecting,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The right honorable member for Cowper has made his speech, but he is keeping up a running fire of interjections. He must cease doing so.
– Sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section 6 reads -
Without prejudice to the generality of the last preceding sub-section a scheme established under this section may -
define the circumstances in which persons shall, or shall not, be entitled to benefits or services under the scheme , -
provide for participation in the scheme by medical practitioners in respect of particular classes of professional services; and
provide that the maximum fees to be charged or received by medical practitioners participating in the scheme in respect of professional services to which the scheme applies shall ‘be the fees fixed by, or assessed under, the regulations as in force from time to time.
Proposed new sub-section (4.) provides that when an arrangement has been made between a medical practitioner and a society, body or person under which professional services are rendered by that medical practitioner, the Minister may make arrangements for the provision by the Commonwealth of sickness benefits or medical services in lieu of the benefits or services to be provided under such arrangement. No compulsion will be exerted on a medical practitioner to enter the scheme. If, however, a medical practitioner does come into the scheme his fees must be in accordance with the prescribed schedule of fees. The right honorable member for Cowper has said by interjection that in New South Wales a schedule of fees has been drawn up by the friendly societies covering medical attention of various kinds. Apparently, he does not object to that. How, then, can he object to the proposal that the Minister or the Government, acting on the recom mendations of an advisory committee or body, should prescribe by regulation a schedule of charges to apply in respect of services rendered under the scheme? To say the least, the right honorable gentleman is strangely inconsistent. A medical practitioner who enters into an agreement with a friendly society to charge fees in accordance with a schedule drawn up by the society is in the same position as a medical practitioner who decides to come under this scheme. Honorable members opposite are merely continuing the same line of argument which they advanced in relation to the legislation that dealt with pharmaceutical benefits.
The right honorable member for Cowper agrees that it is desirable that the Government should institute a national health scheme, but he is not prepared to agree that the Minister, acting on the advice of a panel of medical practitioners, should have the right to prescribe by regulation a schedule of fees applicable to those doctors who come under the scheme. No difficulty would arise in connexion with this matter if the British Medical Association would play ball with the Government and nominate representatives to an advisory panel to make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the schedule of fees to be charged. When the principal act was before the Parliament we were informed that the British Medical Association had been requested to nominate members for appointment to such an advisory body. It failed to do so. I know a specialist in South Australia who specialized in the treatment of diseases of the ear, nose, eyes and throat, who was prepared to make such an agreement with friendly societies for the treatment of their members who suffered from those diseases. He compiled a schedule of charges for surgical operations of various kinds. How can the right honorable member for Cowper contend that the fixation of a schedule of fees in respect of the doctors who elect to come under this scheme will destroy the medical profession in this country? The right honorable gentleman has assumed that in compiling such a schedule the Minister would not have regard to the comparative skill of different specialists. Medical men who specialize in the treatment of diseases of all kinds have their consulting rooms in North-terrace, Adelaide, Collins-street, Melbourne, and Macquarie-street, Sydney. Many of them are highly skilled men. I can understand that some of them would not desire to be tied down to a medium fee, particularly in relation to the treatment of a wealthy patient who could afford to pay the highest fee. All of these difficulties could, however, be ironed out if the members of the medical profession were prepared to co-operate with the Government.
Honorable members opposite who claim to represent the middle classes of this community are doing their supporters a grave disservice by opposing this scheme. Most .people in the poorer sections of the community are members of friendly societies. If they have to undergo a surgical operation they are entitled to obtain treatment in a public hospital. Most middle class people are not members of friendly societies and are not entitled to obtain treatment in public hospitals. They have to pay the highest fees that are charged by members of the medical profession. I have met many men occupying good positions who have put by most of their savings in order to enable them to enjoy the leisure of advancing years, but who, as the result of sickness or accident, have had their life savings eaten up in high charges for medical treatment and surgical operations. No new principles are involved in this bill. Its purpose is solely to make it possible for those doctors who are prepared to co-operate with the Government to implement the health scheme.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has referred to proposed new sub-section (6.) which provides that nothing in this section shall authorize any form of civil conscription. The honorable member indulged in rather caustic criticism of that provision. It will be recalled that when the Commonwealth sought power by way of referendum to institute a national health service it agreed to an amendment that was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) to insert in the legislation a ‘provision which specifically excluded any form of civil conscription.
Proposed new sub-section (6.) is in conformity with that principle. The insertion. of that provision in this bill makes it clear to the people that no compulsion is to be exercised on any medical practitioner. The sole purpose of this bill is to amend the principal act in such a way as will make it possible to institute a health scheme under which one-half of the medical fees incurred by patients treated by doctors who come under the scheme will be paid by the Government. Honorable members opposite are opposing the bill merely for opposition’s sake.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has made it clear to the committee that this is a price-fixing measure. The honorable gentleman has said that, because the Government will pay 50 per cent, of the cost of medical treatment, it must have power to determine the maximum fees that are to be charged by physicians and surgeons for their professional services. Patients can consult general practitioners of great experience, who are, in the - main, the backbone of the medical profession, or they can seek the advice of young medical men who have just obtained their medical degrees ; but, under ‘ the Government’s proposals, the maximum fee that can be charged by both types of practitioner will be the same. I visualize the time when the schedule of prices will provide the charge for the removal of a tonsil at £1 10s., for an appendix at £5 and for a kidney at £10. One only needs to use one’s imagination to see the utter absurdity of these proposals. When a patient is being operated upon it is sometimes discovered that the condition from which he is suffering is much more serious than was expected. In those circumstances, is a surgeon immediately to consult his price-list to find out what he may charge for the more serious operation? We begin to see what will happen under the regime of a socialist government. Bottles of coloured water will be supplied free of charge. There will be a price-list providing that the charge for the removal of a tonsil shall be £1 10s. ; for an adenoid operation, £1 ; for the removal of an appendix, £5 ; and for the removal of a kidney, £10. Prices will rise or fall, according to the treatment that is required. I have no doubt that eventually, the Government, if it has its way, will provide that the forceps and other instruments that are used in operations must be stamped with the socialist brand. Indeed, if this Government remains in power, the socialist brand will eventually be put upon every person in this country. Let us consider the case of an ordinary physician. He will be allowed to charge 5s. for applying a mustard plaster. It might be worth 17s. 6d. to him if he treats a case of migraine. Influenza takes various forms. Is the physician’s charge for the treatment of influenza to increase as the temperature of the patient rises?
If the Government would establish a real national health scheme under which more beds will be provided in hospitals, greater consideration will be shown to medical men and nurses, and tuberculosis will be stamped out within the next decade, it will have done something worthwhile, but it is useless to dabble with a scheme that will put a premium on inefficiency by making it not worth while for medical practitioners to specialize in various branches of medicine and surgery.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the clause.
– If maximum fees are to be fixed for various forms of treatment, medical practitioners will not be encouraged to do the post-graduate work that a specialist must do. I leave it at that. The Government will not be able to induce self-respecting medical men who have the interests of their patients at heart to participate voluntarily in this scheme. Doctors will not willingly allow themselves to be made fools of by socialistic red tape.
. - The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) have not dealt with the clause that the committee is now considering. Indeed, they have no desire to do so. They have taken advantage of this opportunity to attack the national health service lock, stock and barrel.
However, it is here to stay. It is well known that honorable gentlemen opposite are opposed to a national health service. It is also well known that the majority of the members of the British Medical Association are also opposed to it, but there are some medical practitioners who are ready to participate voluntarily in this scheme which envisages that 50 per cent, of the fee charged by a medical practitioner for his professional services shall be paid by the Government in order that patients may be relieved of at least half the cost of medical treatment. That is the basis of this measure. The . proposed new section 6 will not alter materially the principles that have already been agreed to. One reason for its introduction is that it will widen the scope of ‘ the existing section in such a way as will give the Minister for Health and the officials of the Department of Health greater opportunities to consult with members of the medical profession and with organizations such as friendly societies. Another- reason is that fear has been expressed that when the medical profession and Commonwealth departmental officers have reached agreement regarding the fees that may be charged for certain kinds of medical treatment, the scale of fees might be changed by the Commonwealth without notice having been given to the medical profession of the change. The new section is designed to ensure that the agreed scale of fees shall not be altered without three months’ notice of alteration being given. The clause has no other purposes. It does not alter the existing system other than to make the original provision more flexible. Authority is given to the department to conduct consultations with friendly societies and other organizations with a view to bringing them into the scheme if they so desire by agreement. The department is also given power to have consultations with medical practitioners, and provision is made for three months’ notice to be given if any suggestion is made for altering the fees.
The right honorable member for Cowper has been most unfair. He made a charge against the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), who cannot defend himself in this chamber. The right honorable gentleman said that the Minister had made a terrible attack upon a medical practitioner.
– So he did.
– I shall not mention the name of that medical practitioner, but he is a member of the British Medical Association. The right honorable gentleman quoted an extract from the minutes of a conference between the Minister for Health and representatives of the British Medical Association. The medical practitioner made a false statement about the Minister for Health, and the right honorable member for Cowper repeated it.
– I did not make a false statement.
– The right honorable gentleman read a passage from the minutes of the conference.
– That is so. It was the report of some remarks by the Minister.
– The right honorable gentleman did not read a subsequent passage in which the Minister made his meaning perfectly clear. The first statement that the Minister made was as follows : -
I think for checking purposes it would be necessary to ensure that the practitioner keep clinical records of their patients. I understand that is the general practice now and it may be a principle. These clinical records would be produced to the Adjudication Committees in the case of dispute. For the purpose of checking accounts from time to time, they would be subject to inspection by medical practitioners of the department, not laymen.
To clarify the position, the Minister later made the following statement : -
It has been pointed out to me that, in my opening remarks, I may have left the impression that the checking of accounts by the department would depend upon the clinical records kept by the doctors. I did not mean to convey that at all. All I meant to say was that clinical records would be available to medical practitioners in the case of disputed accounts and also that if, as between the department and the doctor, it became necessary to look at clinical records, that would only be done by a medical practitioner and not by a lay person. I did not want to convey the impression to the meeting that the checking of accounts was dependent upon clinical records at all.
– I read that passage.
– The right honorable gentleman definitely said that oneof the grounds on which he based his opposition to the bill was that government officials would be empowered to demand the clinical records of medical practitioners. The bill does not give that authority to the Department of Health. The only way in which such records would be made available would be in the event of a dispute between a patient and a medical practitioner. Such a dispute might not occur in a million years. I believe the Minister for Health. I have been acquainted with him long enough to know that his word can be accepted. I am doubtful whether we can always accept the word of the right honorable member for Cowper.
– That is a nice thing to say.
– I mean what I say, and that goes for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), too.
– This is an example of the brotherly spirit.
– The Minister does as the “ Commos “ tell him.
– I have now explained the purposes of the clause, and I ask the committee to agree to it.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P. Lazzarini.)
Majority . . 10
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I shall not warn the right honorable member for Cowper again about remaining silent. He has been a member of this chamber for a long time, and he knows that he is not permitted to cause disorder during a division.
The Temporary Chairman having declared the question resolved in tha affirmative, and clauses 3, 4 and 5 agreed to,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That point has just been brought to my attention. The number of members who voted in the affirmative was not sufficient to resolve the question in that way. The committee will therefore resume its consideration of clauses 3, 4 and 5.
Clause 3– (Schemes of sickness benefits or medical services).
.- I regret that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was not allowed to speak without undue restriction on the motion for the second reading of this bill. He is the only medical practitioner present in the chamber. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), a Labour representative, is not present. In any case, he is retiring from politics. I quote the following passage from A National Health Service, the hand-book issued by the British Medical Association : -
The Act. bereft of legal verbiage, simply lays down that provisions shall be made for a scheme for the payment of doctors by the Government and that the control of the scheme shall be vested in the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health. It further enacts that all other matters in regard to a National Health Service shall be given effect to by regulations. It is specifically stated that by regulation the Director-General of Health may “take over” all medical, dental, nursing and hospital services, laboratories, health centres and clinics.
The British Medical Association has offered a practical scheme that would be much better than the one proposed by the Government. Among other things, the British Medical Association recommends that there should be more homes for the aged and infirm.
– That has nothing to do with the clause.
– I suggest that it has. The British Medical Association advocates for those in the middle income group a system of voluntary pre-payment for medical services.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is nothing about that in the clause.
– Of course, there is not. The Government will gain nothing by its stratagems which are designed to rob the Parliament of its character as a deliberative assembly. By trying to force its schemes on to the public-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– This amending bill is necessary because of a decision of the High Court which held that certain parts of the National Health Service Act were invalid. The committee is now considering clause 3. I should not have risen to speak except that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred to the Social Security Committee, of which I was chairman for a number of years. That committee made certain important recommendations to the Government. The right honorable member said that the proposals submitted by the British Medical Association would be satisfactory if incorporated in a national health scheme. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) made all sorts of absurd statements about the payment of doctors under a national health scheme. He knows very well that, for many years past, a medical scheme has been operated for the benefit of ex-servicemen under a satisfactory arrangement with members of the medical profession. The purpose of the honorable member was obviously to ridicule the Government’s proposals, which have been designed for the benefit of the public.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) mentioned the circumstances of people in the middle income group, who suffer so severely when there is serious illness in their families. Under the scheme proposed by the Government, half the medical expenses incurred by such persons will be paid by the Government. I am sure that the public will welcome the scheme, which will certainly come into operation at some time in the future. I am not permitted to refer at length to the national health proposals submitted by the British Medical Association, but I can state in passing that some of them are identical with the recommendations of the Social Security Committee. I hope that the Parliament will pass this bill, and that the British Medical Association and the medical profession generally will see the advantage of accepting the Government’s proposals.
.- The blundering tactics of the Government in this chamber are on a par with its blundering approach to a national health service. That statement is well substantiated by an examination of the present measure. In the original act, there is a section which provides that regulations may be made for any purpose that is expedient or incidental to the carrying out of a national health service, but not one regulation under that section has been so far gazetted, although the act came into force more than a year ago. Now, the present bill has been introduced on the ground that some tinpot regulations have become necessary. I throw that idea out with scorn. We should examine this bill to see whether something is not being sneaked in as was the ease with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill. The Minister said there was some doubt about my veracity, but I challenge him to point out one remark that I have made in this Parliament or anywhere else that was not 100 per cent, correct. Tha Minister has said that I do not tell the whole truth, but, from its dark beginnings about two a.m. one day, this measure has been one of deceit. The doctors were told by the Minister that they would not be compelled to do anything, but, immediately after the passage of the principal act, they were told that they must prescribe medicines on an official form and according to the Government’s formulary.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! There is nothing about that in this measure.
– The High Court justices pointed out-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member must not canvass the opinions of the judges.
– It is a pity we cannot. Proposed new section 6 (4.) makes it possible for the Government to say to friendly societies that, regardless of their experience through the years, they shall no longer be entitled to provide their members with the benefit of that experience. The friendly societies and the British Medical Association, for ls. 6d. a week, will give greater benefits than those for which the Government charges ls. 6d. in the £1. A very small percentage of the people are using thescheme at the present time. If it had any real value, and after all it has been before the public for six years, it would get some results. This Government scheme will get no result at the present time simply by reason of the fact that the people themselves know instinctively that it will cause a deterioration of medical treatment and of health and will destroy the relationship between doctor and patient which means so much. After all, it is the patient’s confidence in the doctor, more than any other thing, that helps a treatment along. If people are not to have a regular doctor, but to have some part-time doctor who rushes in to treat them, the medical service will become very poor indeed. I therefore urge the Government not to make any regulations under this bill when it becomes law. After all, it has not made any regulations under the principal act, although that measure is a year old. I do not know, of course, whether the Government can carry the bill with the number of members that it has now available in the chamber-
– The right honorable member has kept the debate going long enough for us to obtain the necessary numbers.
– I am trying to educate the people of Australia. To-day I was stupidly prevented from making a second’-reading speech on this matter, and subsequently the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) moved the closure and so stopped me from speaking. I ask the Government not to make regulations under this measure, but to let the people decide the matter on the 10th December next, at the general election. I am satisfied that when we return to this chamber in the next Parliament we shall have a majority and this measure will be repealed. No regulations associated with it will ever be made, because we shall bring into being a system that will not only improve the health of the people but will also use every voluntary agency, such as friendly societies and- doctors and nurses’ organizations, and that will steadily improve public health and cause us to have a greater pride than ever in what has been achieved.
Clause agreed to. [Quorum formed.’]
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) - by leave - put.
That the bill be now read a third time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker having declared the question resolved in the affirmative,
Bill read a third time.
– The Chair heard1 only one call for a division, so that no division was necessary.
– Two honorable members called for a division.
– That is right.I also called for a division.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 2101), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for the approval of an agreement that will, in effect, mean an increase of the retail price of sugar throughout Australia from 4½d. to 5d. per lb. It is the result of an application submitted by the sugar organizations of Queensland and New South Wales through the Queensland Premier. Those applications arose from steadily increasing costs and steadily decreasing returns from raw sugar. The Government has agreed to the major portion of the industry’s requests by introducing this measure.
I propose to deal with this subject under various headings, such as the justification which exists for the increase of prices to be granted; the effect of that increase on the sugar industry itself and on the wholesalers and retailers of sugar, and also upon the consumer ; the relationship of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to the industry; the effect of the increase on that company; and, finally, the industry’s request for a temporary suspension of the annual payment of ‘£216,000 to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which was refused by the Government.
I think that it is known to honorable members generally that for many years past the economy of the sugar industry has been based upon a series of agreements, each of five years’ duration, formulated between the Australian Government and State governments, under which, first of all, an embargo was imposed on the importation of sugar grown by black labour. That embargo gives an assured market to the industry. Secondly, the Queensland Govern-, ment is required to make refined sugar available to the capital cities of Australia at a specified price. That is the basis of the industry’s economy. In 1945, when the then expiring agreement and the provisions for the new agreement were being discussed the industry submitted an application to the Government for an increase of the price of sugar. It was pointed out that during the war years the industry had suffered from reduced production and increasing costs. A request was made, at that time, for an increase above 4d. per lb., which was then the retail price of sugar. The Government refused that request, but qualified its refusal with a statement to the effect that if costs continued to move against the industry the provisions of the agreement would be reviewed during its tenure. In 1947, as a result of the continual increase of costs, the industry again found it necessary to ask the Government for an increase of the price to 4id. per lb. By that time the factors in favour of the increase had become so strong that the Government granted the application. In speaking to the amending bill to give effect to the increase, I pointed out that it did not place the industry in a favoured position. The industry, in fact, was only being returned to the level that it had enjoyed at the onset of the depression, and could not in any way be considered to be receiving a very great advantage. ‘ After dealing with deductions that had to be made from the increased price, as the result of increased costs of various kinds, I summarized the position by saying -
Thus, we have deductions amounting to 30s. a ton, which will depress the amended price of raw sugar to £24 Os. a ton, which is only Os. a ton more than the price paid after the depression cut of 1933. Thus, while the price for the consumer is raised to the predepression level, the return to the producer will be practically equivalent to the return obtained in the worst years of the depression.
History has shown that my summary was correct. In the succeeding season, in 1947, the price obtained for raw sugar for home consumption amounted to only £24 a ton, or 6s. a ton less than I had forecast. I pointed out at that time that any further rises in costs would necessitate the industry again asking for relief and for a further adjustment of the agreement. It must be taken for granted that the Government’s action in granting an increase in the price of sugar in 1947 indicated its desire to stabilize the industry. The present financial returns in the industry show very clearly that the Government’s objective has not been achieved. That fact can best be expressed in terms of the raw sugar return to the industry during the last two years. Prom the 1947 increase, which was £4 13s. 4d. a ton on refined sugar sold retail, there must be deducted certain amounts to take care of increased margins to wholesalers and retailers and for conversion of 94 NT raw sugar to refined sugar. As the result of those factors the increase of £4 13s. 4d. a ton was reduced to approximately £3 16s. a ton of raw sugar.
During 1947 and 194S, costs continued to mount far beyond the level that had been anticipated by the industry and, I assume, by the Government. These increased costs were separate from the additional costs involved in the adoption of the 40-hour week. It will be recalled that the Prime Minister, in announcing the increase in 1947, stated that any further increase in costs due to the operation of the 40-hour week would not be accepted by the Government as a reason for granting a further advance in price. The increased costs to which I have referred are over and above those incurred as the result of the adoption of the 40- hour week. They resulted from a steady increase in shipping freights and in certain refining charges, such as wages, bags, coal, &c. These items increased the cost by £2 13s. a ton. “We found to our amazement and dismay when the 1948 crop was being finalized that only £1 3s. a ton was left of the £3 16s. a ton increase that had been granted in 1947. It became obvious that something would have to be done if the stability of the industry were to be preserved. After a careful check of rising costs the industry presented to the Government a claim for an increase to 5d. per lb. The check that was made indicated that costs had so risen since the 194S season that the margin of £1 3s. left to the industry out of the increase granted in 1947 would not only be completely absorbed but that an additional £1 a ton would be lost. If no increase in price had been granted for the 1949 season the price received for raw sugar would be not more than £21 a ton. It is a significant fact that that price would represent the lowest price received by the Australian industry for raw sugar since 1919. I invite honorable members to compare cost levels in 1919 with those that now prevail. They will realize that without these increases the price received by the industry would have been at the same level as that which applied in 1919. In such circumstances an impossible position would have arisen. The Government is to be commended for having realized the strength of the case that was submitted to it by the sugar industry, for having accepted as accurate the figures presented supporting that case, and for having granted an increase of Jd. per lb. The figures submitted by the industry show the complete justification of its application for an increase in price to 5d. and also for the Government’s action in granting the application.
I pass to a consideration of the effect which this increase will have on the sugar industry. It is important that every one should realize that this increase is only a small one, and that it represents the minimum which could be asked for by the industry. It is anticipated by the industry that the increase that is proposed in this bill will bring the price of raw sugar to approximately £24 a ton. In the submissions -which the industry made to the Government that figure was stated, but it was determined on the assumption that the increase of 1/2d. per lb. for refined sugar would operate from the 1st October. It is obvious that a percentage of this year’s crop will be sold at the old rates, and that the net result will not be £24 a ton. From 1933 to 1938 the industry received £24 a ton for its sugar. I point out that the increase that is proposed in this bill will bring the return to the industry only up to the level which it received in predepression years. The return of £24 a ton is lower than the amount received by the industry from 1929 to 1932. At that time, the cost of refined sugar was 4 1/2d. per lb. It will be obvious that this proposed increase will confer no great favour on the sugar industry. It is, in fact, the minimum amount which could be granted to the industry. From my own experience, I know that the industry, in presenting its case to the Government, deliberately kept its request to a minimum. The reason for- that was that it was felt that time was of the essence of the contract. An immediate increase was a matter of urgency. An application for an increase of Id. per lb., which, I think, would have been completely justified, would probably have caused the Government to decide that, before it could grant such an increase, it would have to conduct an inquiry into the industry. Such an inquiry would have taken a considerable time. The industry believed that an increase of -£d. per lb., which was made applicable to the major portion of the 1949 crop, would be at least as valuable to the industry as an increase of Id. per lb. which applied only to the 1950 crop, leaving the 1949 crop to be sold on the old basis. In announcing this increase, the Prime Minister has said that eventually an inquiry will have to be held into costs in the industry. The sugar industry realizes that, and provided the investigation is thoroughly carried out, it is quite satisfied with that proposal. It believes that continually increasing costs will show that its claims are completely justified and probably will justify a further increase of price if costs continue to rise.
I turn now to the effect of this increase upon wholesalers, retailers and consumers. It is sometimes said that when increases of prices are granted the interests or wholesalers, retailers and consumers are not properly safeguarded. As a result of this increase, the position of the wholesalers and retailers has improved. Before the 1947 increase, the retailers were operating on a margin of £4 2s. on a ton of refined sugar. After the 1947 increase, the margin was £4 13s. 4d. a ton. After this increase, it will be £5 4s. a ton. It will be seen, therefore, that the position of the retailers has improved to a greater degree than has the position of the sugar producers. As a result of this increase, the retailers’ margin will be 26 per cent, greater than the 1946 margin, whereas the price that will be paid to the sugar producers now is only 10 per cent, greater than the 1946 price. The interests of the retailers have been properly safeguarded.
Sugar wholesalers operate on a 2 per cent, discount. It is obvious, therefore, that if there is an increase of the price of sugar then the gross profits rise. Before the 1947 increase, the wholesalers’ margin on a ton of sugar was 13s. 3d., and after this increase, it will be 16s. 7d. The margin has increased by 3s. 4d. a ton, or by 25 per cent. The sugar producers have received a price increase of 10 per cent, during the same period. As a result of this increase the wholesalers and retailers are, relatively, in a better position than are the sugar producers.
The effect of an increase of the price of sugar upon consumers is a very important consideration. When the proposal to increase the price of sugar to 4£d. per lb. was discussed in 1947, honorable members on both sides of the House were at pains to point out that Australian sugar consumers, in comparison with sugar consumers in other countries, were in a very favorable position. Tables were produced which showed that at that time the price of sugar in Australia was lower than the prices that obtained almost anywhere else in the world. That favorable position will be maintained very largely. The International Sugar Council publishes a year-book regularly. The most recent publication shows that in 1948 the only countries in which the price of sugar was lower than it was in Australia were Mexico, Denmark, Argentina and Peru. The figures given in that Year-Book are in terms of United States cents a kilogram. Australian sugar, at 5d. per lb., costs 14.8 cents a kilogram, but the price of sugar in New Zealand is 24.02 cents a kilogram. Cuba is the greatest sugar producing country in the world, but the Cuban people are paying 21.7 cents a kilogram for sugar. The price of sugar in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom is 20.5, 19.7 and 18.5 cents a kilogram respectively. Those figures prove that, even when this increase is taken into account, the Australian sugar consumer, in comparison with the sugar consumers in other countries, is in a very favorable position.
The per capita consumption of ,-iugar throughout Australia, taking into consideration the sugar that is used in manufacturing processes, is approximately 120 lb. a year. On that basis, the result of this increase of the price of sugar by id. per lb. will be that Australian consumers will each pay 5s. a year more for their sugar. If the sugar that is used in manufacturing processes is deducted, the household consumption of sugar by each person in- Australia is 80 lb. a year. Therefore, so far as the household is concerned, the result of this increase will be that each person will pay an additional 3s. 4d. a year for sugar. That is equivalent- to the price of, say, a halfdozen beers a year. I submit that the value of the Australian sugar industry to the nation is more than th« price of a half-dozen beers a year per head.
Australian sugar consumers have had the advantage of an assured supply of sugar at low prices for many years. In 1920 or thereabouts the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hashes) introduced a measure which provided for an increase of the price of raw sugar to £30 6s. Sd. a ton. The right honorable gentleman had visited the north of Queensland and had realized its potentialities. He decided that for a period of five years the price of sugar should be fixed at a level that would ensure the development of the sugar industry in Queensland. A condition of the guarantee was that the industry should undertake to develop its productive capacity to such a degree that it could provide Australia for all time with the sugar that it required. It is interesting to note that by 1924 the industry had honoured its undertaking, and from that time onwards it has produced more sugar than Australia has required. From then until now Australian consumers have been assured of a supply of reasonably cheap sugar.
The use of the word “ supply “ prompts me to make a brief reference to the shortages of sugar from which the southern States have suffered from time. to time. Those shortages have been due to factors that have been, completely beyond the control of the raw sugar industry. Since 1924 there has not been a shortage of raw sugar in Australia. The supplies of raw sugar in this country have always been sufficient to satisfy the requirements of manufacturers and domestic consumers. The trouble has been caused from time to time by industrial disputes which have delayed shipments or have interfered with the refining of sugar. Shortages of refined sugar, therefore, are attributable to causes that are outside the control of the industry itself, and any blame for that position should be placed, not upon the sugar industry, but upon those to whom it rightly belongs.
I now propose to deal with the relation of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to the industry. From time to time, I have been asked questions that suggest a considerable lack of knowledge of the part that this company plays in the economy of the industry. I have been asked to explain the position of that company in the industry, and the effect of the increased price on its finances. Therefore, I shall clarify the position. The Queensland Government acquires each year the raw sugar that is manufactured in that State, including the raw sugar that is manufactured at the three mills operated by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited’. In addition, sugar that is manufactured in New South Wales in the company’s mills is placed voluntarily by the owners in the Queensland pool. In order to carry out its obligations, the Queensland Government, having acquired the whole of the sugar, and therefore being the owner of it, appoints the Queensland Sugar Board to administer the refining, sale and distribution of the sugar. That board is appointed by the Queensland Government as its refining and selling agent in Australia. From the time the raw sugar is manufactured in the mills and is placed in ships or other specific points of delivery until the wholesaler takes delivery of the refined sugar, the commodity belongs to the Queensland Government and not to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. At no stage does that company own the sugar. The only return that the company obtains from the industry is represented’ by the fees that it is paid by the Queensland Sugar Board, acting as the agent of the Queensland Government, for the services that it provides in refining and distributing sugar in Australia. The company has nothing to do with the export of sugar. The whole of the accounts of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, representing its operations as the agent of the Queensland Sugar Board, must be submitted each year to the Auditor-General of Queensland to ensure that they are completely in order. I shall cite in terms of pence per lb. the fees that were paid to the company in 1947. These figures are the latest that I have been able to obtain: - Management, 083d., cost of selling .039d., interest 030d., refining costs, embracing wages, coal, packages and other materials, insurance and delivery of refined sugar, depreciation of plant and processing losses, 491d. The total is .643d. per lb., or slightly more than -£d. per lb. of refined sugar. That amount represents the complete return per lb. that was received by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited’ for its operations in 1947. As that company in addition to refining and distributing sugar makes available to the Queensland Government moneys for financing the acquisition of cane throughout the season, it will be granted that it is performing a fine service for a very low fee. The company has no voice in determining the distribution of the moneys that are paid by consumers and allocated to the industry by the Queensland Sugar Board.
I shall now deal briefly with that part of the industry’s application that was not granted by the Commonwealth. The industry asked that the statutory payment of £216,000 per annum by the sugar industry to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should be suspended, at least temporarily, until the large reserves that had been established by that committee were liquidated. The Government has refused that application, and I believe that, from the statement by the Minister in his second-reading speech, the position regarding that fund has not been fully understood; otherwise I consider that at least a part of the industry’s request would have been granted. The Minister referred to the application by the industry for the suspension of that payment, and after giving some explanatory details, he said -
The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee Funds, apart from being used for purposes of domestic and export rebates, may also be used for “ the purpose of promoting the use and sale of Australian manufactured fruit products in the Commonwealth of Australia or overseas “. Therefore, the Government could not agree to any action which might jeopardize the fruit processing industries.
It is the inclusion of the last few words in that statement of the reasons for the Government’s refusal to grant the application that suggests to me that the Commonwealth has not fully understood the position. It was not the intention of the sugar industry to jeopardize in any way the fruit or fruit processing industries, and the acceptance of the industry’s proposals would not have had that effect. For many years the fruit industry’s requirements of sugar have been increasing and manufacturers have enjoyed certain concessions that have been payable to them from a fund established by the sugar industry. A domestic rebate of £2 4s. a ton is payable to the manufacturers of fruit products in respect of sugar that is used by them in the processing of fruit. There has always been a qualification that that rebate shall be payable only if the manufacturers pay to the fruit-growers an amount that is considered by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee to be a reasonable price for the fruit. For many years, that committee, which was established to administer that fund, has actually laid down the prices that should be paid to fruit-growers in the south. The result has been that since that time fruit-growers have received good prices for their fruit, and have developed their industry considerably. The sugar industry has realized that it has a certain responsibility to return the support that it receives from the industries in the south, and for that reason it has been gratified to be able to give suitable assistance to the fruit industry. But when it accepted that obligation it did not at any time undertake to play the role of fairy godmother for all time to industries in the south. It was considered that after some years, when a basis for reasonable fruit prices had been established in the south, the necessity for that payment would cease. But in any case, there still remains in the fund more than £800,000. The proposal of the industry that the contribution of £216,000 should not be collected does not mean that the domestic rebate of £2 4s. a ton should not be payable. It would be payable for at least another five years. A contribution of £216,000 represents between 8s. and 9s. a ton on the quantity of sugar consumed in Australia.
The second consideration which the processers receive from the fund is an export rebate payable on the sugar content of exported fruit products. Manufacturers of products which include sugar are able to buy sugar at the equivalent of the export parity price, so as to permit them to compete on the world’s market with products containing cheap blackgrown sugar. No rebates have been made under this provision for some years, hecause the price of sugar in Australia has been cheaper than the world parity price. The Australian manufacturers of fruit products have been getting their sugar cheaper than their overseas competitors have been able to buy sugar. Thus, during the last few years, the fund standing to the credit of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has been steadily growing. Indeed, the position is becoming ridiculous. So long as the world price, of sugar keeps up there appears to be no limit to the size of the fund, and no actual use for it. Therefore, the sugar growers say, “Why not relieve us of this payment, at least for a period ? “ A few days ago, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tabled the last report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, from which I have taken the following particulars : -
In view of the fact that there is being established a large fund for which there is no real U3e, and that the industry has asked for the suspension of the payments for a period only, the Government might well have accepted the industry’s proposals. However, the principal request of the industry was for an increase of price from 4½d. to5d. per lb., and full credit is given to the Government for having acceded to that request. We should like the increase to be applied as rapidly as possible so as to cover the bulk of the present crushing, and to ensure that the price of the whole Crop will be in the vicinity of £24. a ton.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) say whether anything will be done to make more sugar available to housewives in the southern States during the fruitpreserving season ?
– We have taken the matter up by letter with the Premier of Queensland.
– Will the position be improved?
– I support the bill. As the representative of an important sugar-growing district in southern Queensland, I appreciate the fact that the Government has acceded to the request of the industry for an increased price. The attitude of honorable members to the sugar industry has changed notably since I first entered the Parliament. I pay a tribute to such pioneers as Mr. Doherty, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Powell for their work in gaining recognition among fruit processers and consumers in the south of the importance of the Queensland sugar industry. It is the only industry in Australasia which has not had the benefit of an increased price since the depression. At that time, the price of sugar was reduced, and no increase has been granted until the present time. In past years the industry suffered from the hostility of housewives and fruit processers in the southern
States. That hostility has now waned, and now honorable members representing all States in the Commonwealth are prepared to see justice done to the industry. By the application of scientific methods, by increased efficiency and by hard work,, those engaged in the sugar industry have been able to carry on, but the proposed increase of½d. per lb. is long overdue. This is not a party matter. The industry is important to the development of Queensland and the defence of Australia, which is the only country in the world- that produces cane sugar with white labour. Moreover, Australian sugar, produced by white labour, is the cheapest in the world. It might ‘be argued that sugar sells in England for less than it does- here, but to the British price there must be added the bounty paid to the beet-growers, and the protective duty on imported sugar. When such factors are taken into consideration, the price of Australian sugaT compares favorably with that of sugar in any other part of the world, including Cuba. With the aid of science the cheapest sugar in the world is produced in southern Queensland. I am very glad that the sugar industry is to obtain this increased price. It is worthy of assistance. It is an important factor in the defence of Australia because of its operation in Queensland. It is also, with a great deal of reciprocity, of great assistance to the fruit-growing industries of Australia, especially in Tasmania and Victoria. With pride I think this increase arises from a question that I asked of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) not very long ago.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 24 (Removal of Coal).
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out sub-clause (2.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (2.) Notwithstanding the provisions of the last preceding sub-section, the Collector may accept a deposit of money, or a guarantee, in respect of the duty on coal to be produced during a period approved by the Collector, and removal may be made during that period, without entry, of coal the duty on which does not exceed the amount of the deposit or guarantee.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed- to.
One of the provisions of the bill, which appears in clause 24, deals with the payment of money to the Collector of Customs. It has been deemed wise to make an amendment of this provision. The Senate, therefore, deleted the subclause (2.) which appeared in the bill when it left this House, and inserted a new sub-clause in its place. The effect of the new sub-clause, as explained by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) in the Senate, is to enable the Collector of Customs to accept a guarantee in respect of the duty on coal instead of making it mandatory upon him to accept n deposit of money for that purpose. The sub-clause that has been omitted reads - (2.) Notwithstanding the provisions of the last preceding sub-section, a deposit of money may be accepted by the Collector on account of the duty on coal to be produced during a period approved by the Collector, and removal may be made during that period, without entry, of coal the duty on which does not exceed the amount of the deposit.
The new sub-clause reads - (2.) Notwithstanding the provisions of the last preceding sub-section, the Collector may accept a deposit of money, or a guarantee, in respect of the duty on coal to be produced during a. period approved by the Collector, and removal maybe made during that period, without entry, of coal the duty on which does not exceed the amount of the deposit or guarantee.
It will be seen, therefore, that the amendment is limited to the one point to which I have referred.
– I rise only to say that this amendment to a bill that we had before us for the first time earlier to-day is symptomatic of the haste with which legislation is being forced through the Parliament in order that it may rise at a time that has been decided upon by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
States Grants (Coal Strike Emergency) Bill 1949.
States Grants (Administration of Controls Reimbursement ) Bill 1949.
United Kingdom Grant Bill 1949.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1949.
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1949.
Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill 1949.
States Grants Bill (No. 2) 1949.
Temple Society Trust Fund Bill 1949.
Defence Bill 1949.
Naval Defence Bill 1949.
Loan (Housing Bill 1949.
States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Bill 1949.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund Grant Bill 1949.
States Grants (Coal-mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill 1949.
Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Bill 1949.
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) Bill 1949 [No. 21.
Christmas Island Agreement Bill 1949.
Coal Industry (Tasmania) Bill 1949.
Without requests -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1949.
Entertainments Tax Bill (No. 2) 1949.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1949.
Customs Tariff Bill 1949.
Excise Tariff Bill 1949.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill 1949.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1949.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1949.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [10.5]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to make some reference to the work of the staffs associated with the House, and also to express my appreciation of the work of Mr. Deputy Speaker, the various Acting Deputy Speakers, the Deputy Chairman and the Temporary Chairmen of Committees. I also desire to express my appreciation of the courtesy accorded me by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The party whips, to whom I also express my appreciation, have had a very busy time during the life of this Parliament. The Parliamentary Draftsman has also been kept busy, and although the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made reference to some matter of drafting that did not please him, J am sure that he will admit that the Parliamentary Draftsman has a really difficult job.
The officers of the House have accorded members the greatest courtesy and attention, and have contributed to the harmonious working of the Parliament. They have indeed contributed very greatly to the comfort of members of the House. I express my appreciation of the efficiency of the Hansard staff, the members of which make much better speeches than most of us are capable of making. I know that my speeches seem much better after I have read them in Hansard than they seemed when I made them, and I put that down to the literary skill of the Hansard staff. The members of that staff have had a great deal of strain imposed upon them during the present Parliament. Apart from the fact that the House has been sitting on four days a week, morning sittings have imposed a great strain upon the Hansard reporters, and I am sure that all honorable members will join with me in congratulating them upon their work.
The staff of the Parliamentary Library has given great service to all honorable members who sought its assistance and its members have extended to us the greatest courtesy at all times. I appreciate the work done by that staff. I also appreciate the work done by the staff of the refreshment room and all other staffs in the House.
I take this opportunity of expressing my good wishes and appreciation to a number of honorable members who are not seeking re-election at the next general election, and who will therefore not be returning to the House. They are old friends who hold the respect of every member of the Parliament and of all Australians. One of those honorable members is the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), whose lengthy illness has kept him from attendance at the House for some time. This has been greatly regretted by all of us. The right honorable gentleman has given a great measure of service, not only to the Labour party, but also to the whole Australian nation, and I deeply regret, not merely for reasons of party, but also for personal reasons, that he will not be returning to this Parliament.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who is an old member of this House, is also not seeking reelection. He has been in poor health for some years and that fact has forced him to decide not to contest at the general election the seat that he now holds, although he would be certain of winning it if he faced the electors. The older members of this House will remember the brilliant invective of the honorable member for Batman when he was at his best in debate in this House. His speeches were not always enjoyed by bis opponents, but he has made a great contribution to the public life of this country. He leaves this Parliament after having rendered very great service to Australia, and to the party with which he has been associated.
I understand that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) will not be contesting his seat again. Whatever differences there may have been between that honorable member and me I can say that he has always shown great courtesy to every member of the House, and, indeed, he is one of the best behaved members of this House. Other honorable members to whom I wish to bid farewell and to whom I wish to express my appreciation are the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who are not seeking re-election to this chamber. I really do not know who the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) will have to get his teeth into in future, as the honorable member for Bendigo will not be returning to the House. The honorable member will have to find a new subject for some of his repartee. I also express my regret that, due to ill health, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) will not be contesting his seat at the next general election. All the honorable members that I have mentioned have given good service to their country. Politicians do, after all, render service to the people whom they represent. I take this opportunity of expressing, on behalf of the Government, its good wishes to all of those honorable members who will not be returning to the Parliament, and also its appreciation of their work.
In expressing my appreciation of the courtesy accorded me by honorable members opposite I shall not be hypocritical enough to offer them the wish that they will get everything that they want between now and the time that the next Parliament meets. That would not be the right thing to do, and I would not be quite sincere if I did it. I hope that some honorable members opposite will not be returning to the Parliament, and I suppose that that feeling is completely reciprocated.
I take the opportunity now to thank personally all the members of the House, no matter to which party they belong, for the very great courtesy that they have extended to me as head of the Government. It is perfectly true that some honorable members opposite have been slightly rude at times when feelings have run high, but I do not mind that at all. Our personal relationships, whatever differences we may have politically, are particularly good. Also on behalf of the Government I thank honorable members opposite for their courtesy. In particular, I thank the Leaders of the Opposition parties and their deputies for the courtesy, consideration and kindness that they have shown to me. I shall always be able to look back on this Parliament without feeling that any member of it is my enemy.
I wish all honorable members the best of health and I am sure that, despite the vicissitudes of political life, a great number of them will return to the Parliament. However, there is room for some expansion and we shall see many new faces in the Parliament after the next election because of the increase of the number of seats.
The Christmas and New Year season will have passed before we meet again and therefore I express to all honorable members my very best wishes for themselves and their families, and all those who have been associated with them in the performance of their duties. I again thank the officials in the House from the highest to the lowest, for the kind consideration which they have always extended to me.
– In the unavoidable absence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) 1 desire to express, on behalf of the Liberal party of Australia, the good wishes of all its members to those who have so ably assisted us during the last three years. I concur, in the main, in what the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said. I join with him in expressing goodwill and best wishes for happiness, health and prosperity to those who are about to leave us. The close of this Parliament gives us an opportunity to say farewell to some of those among us who have been closely associated with the parliamentary life of this country. Several honorable members on both sides of the House will not stand for re-election, and we shall miss them in the new Parliament. Those honorable members include the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who has always comported himself as an extremely worthy representative of his constituents. We thank him for the great public service that he has rendered to this country, and we wish him health and prosperity in all his future undertakings. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), whose state of health, unfortunately, precludes him from continuing in public life, has made his mark in the political arena.
The honorable gentleman is a man of strong character, and strong opinions. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) will transfer to the Senate, and I have no don bt that our misfortune in losing him from this chamber will be regarded as good fortune by those who will sit with him in that chamber.
I should like to say a few Words about the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), for whom I have a great respect. I remember him when 1 was first elected a member of this House, and his sincerity, capacity and obvious honesty of purpose impressed mc most forcibly. This country will be the loser because he will no longer take an active part in public life. I also express my regret that the Parliament is to lose the services of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), whom I was compelled to respect in the early days of my political life. He was then a force to be reckoned with. T have crossed swords with him on many occasions and in debate he has always been scrupulously fair. During his parliamentary career, he has contributed a great deal to the national life of this country. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), who is of more recent vintage, will also leave us. His cheery nature, and the courtesy that he has extended to all honorable members, have endeared him to all of us. We are glad to accept the friendship of all those who oppose us politically. Although we do not see eye to eye with them politically, we respect their integrity, and the tenacity of purpose which has prompted them to cross swords with us in the hurlyburly of parliamentary life. I extend my regrets to those who will not be with us in the new Parliament. No doubt they will listen attentively to their colleagues attempting to obstruct the business of the new Government, as we have quite successfully done in respect of the business of this Government during the last three years.
I shall now refer briefly to my personal association with the Prime Minister. In the short period in which I have been Acting Leader of the Opposition, his courtesy and kindliness have been a great source of satisfaction to me. He has been helpful in every way, and T have been most appreciative of his help.
To the officers and staff of the House, I express my appreciation for the valuable assistance which they have always rendered to me. I greatly regret that, because of ill health, Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) is unable to be present at the close of this Parliament. He is a man of great character, who, possibly, knows the Standing Orders better than did any of his predecessors. To you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I extend my very best wishes. Although we have crossed swords with you on a number of occasions, there has been no lasting -bitterness in our relations. My good wishes are also extended to the members of the Hansard staff, and to the gentlemen who sit quietly in the broadcasting booth in the corner of this chamber, and who have the means of putting our speeches over the air, either in a way that reflects great credit on us by the volume of our voices, or creates a wrong impression in the minds of the listeners by toning them down. The fact that, in the hurly-burly of politics, with the sharp thrust and parry of political debate and disputation which we get in this democratic Parliament, we are able to make warm personal friends among honorable members of different political faiths, augurs well .for the continuance of our parliamentary system. Although there may be sharp cleavages of opinion on political matters, we do not carry our differences into our personal relations. [ have no doubt that the lot of the future Prime Minister and of Mr. Speaker and the officers of the House will be much harder when the newer members meet in this chamber, full of enthusiasm and brilliant’ ideas, and have to be directed in the performance of their duties.
– In the temporary absence of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) I wish to associate the members of that party with the expressions of goodwill that have been uttered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), on behalf of the Government, and by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) on behalf of tho Liberal party. I do so with a great deal of pleasure. I express to you, Mr.
Deputy Speaker, the good wishes of the Australian Country party, and assure you that we have derived much pleasure from obeying your rulings, whether they have been right or wrong. “We have realized that you had a duty to perform and that you performed it to the best of your ability. I join in the expressions of appreciation of the work of the Hansard staff and the officers and staffs of the various parliamentary departments. I refer particularly to the staff of the refreshment rooms, whom we are apt to forget after they have fed us so well.
My party desires that I should express our gratitude to the officers of the Commonwealth departments for the assistance and courtesy that they have extended to us at all times. We appreciate it very much.
On some occasions the pres3 has said nasty things about us, but I forgive those who’ have done so, as I forgive those who have drawn nasty cartoons. We have shortly to face our masters, but apparently the press has no master.
The Parliament is to lose the services of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). The honorable gentleman is a great Australian and a man who is well versed in national and international affairs. He will be a great loss. It is a pity that the Parliament is to be deprived of the services of a young man of the calibre and promise of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) will not return to the Parliament again as a member of the House of Representatives. He has been associated with the Australian Country party for a very long time. There is no man in Australia whose honour and integrity excels that of the “ General “. He has rendered yeoman service to his country in the Parliament and in the field. I express the hope, which I am sure is shared by all honorable members, that he will be successful at the forthcoming general election and that he will be happy in the Senate.
I have known the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) in health and in sickness. I have seen him in this chamber in the course of debates when he has been really venomous but, I have also seen him at meal times when he has been quite approachable. I have seen him in the middle of the night when I have been in pain and he has been the essence of kindness. I know his ability as a medica man. I can never thank him sufficiently for his kindness to me.
No mention has been made of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein).
– He is standing for re-election.
– Well, we do not like to see honorable members leave the Parliament. I hope that he will find his niche somewhere.
Two other honorable members who will not return to the Parliament are the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), two stalwarts of the Labour .party. The right honorable member for Yarra has never been the man that he was before he assumed the responsibilities of Prime Minister of this country during the depression years. Thi.’ great burden that was imposed upon him then almost killed him. We have learned to like and respect the honorable member for Batman, and we shall miss him hecause we realize his worth and integrity.
I express my gratitude to the Prime Minister for the assistance that he has given me on many occasions. Whenever I have approached him, he has been courtesy itself. I also express appreciation of the assistance that I have received from other Ministers. All country members realize that their task is made much easier by reason of the courtesy and assistance that is extended to them by Ministers. I also extend my best wishes to my colleagues, the Government Whip and the Liberal Party Whip. Our association has always been pleasant. Again I offer to all honorable members my own best wishes, and those of the party to which I belong, both for the Christmas season and for the election.
– On behalf of the Parliament itself, I should like to add my few words to the expressions of appreciation that have been uttered by party leaders of the work of the parliamentary staffs, particularly Hansard, during the currency of the
Eighteenth Parliament. The officers have all performed their arduous duties well, and I extend my good wishes to them. The task of the chamber officers, in particular, are onerous and their work is worthy of special mention. Without their capable services the Parliament could not have functioned as efficiently as it has done during the past three years. I also extend to all members of this chamber my thanks for the co-operation that they have always extended to me, both as Chairman of Committees and as Deputy Speaker. It has been with some misgivings that I have carried out the duties of Deputy Speaker. Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) is a man of exceptional ability, and it has been no mean task to deputize for him. However, I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to maintain order in the House. With such a variety of tempers and temperaments as there is in this chamber, cne could not expect complete silence during all discussions, but I have received generous co-operation from honorable members in performing my duties. I have crossed swords with some honorable members on occasions, but there has been no personal feeling behind the exchanges. The Standing Orders have had to be observed, and the presiding officer has had to do his duty. Again I express to all honorable members my appreciation of the assistance that they have given to me. It is pleasing indeed to know that Mr. Speaker is improving in health, and on his behalf also I extend good wishes to all honorable members of the Parliament. I think that I can express my feelings most adequately by saying that I should be most happv to see all members of the present Parliament back in their places after the elections.
Question resolved- in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Annual Report bv the Trustees for year 1948-40.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Health - J. H. Little.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules l949. No. 78.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs (16).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 80.
High Commissioner Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 79.
International Monetary Agreements Act - Annual Report on operations of the Act, insofar as they relate to Australia., of the International Monetary Fund Agreement and the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development Agreement, for year 1948-49.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Carnarvon, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Mundaring, Western Australia.
The Junction, New South Wales.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of portion of Alice Springs Aboriginal Reserve.
Social Services Consolidation Act - Report by the Director-General of Social Services for year 1948-49.
House adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Mr.White asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What amounts have been paid by the Commonwealth Government to Trans-Australia Airlines for each of the financial years since its inception on account of: (a) the carriage of mails; (b) passenger fares; and (c) other payments for freight and like services?
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Airlines in respect of the carriage of mails in each of the first three years of operation were: Financial year 1946-47, £50,865; 1947-48, £325,000; 1948-49, £399,300. In addition, for the financial years 1947-48 the sum of £33,972 and for 1948-49 the sum of £89,605 were credited to Trans-Australia Airlines in connexion with services of a developmental nature as approved by the Minister. In 1948-49, these developmental services included the internal services in Queensland formerly operated under subsidy arrangement by Qantas Empire Airways, which services were taken over by Trans-Australia Airlines as from the 2nd April, 1949.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Will he expedite a reply to the question, asked by the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party, regarding payments for the carriage of mails by airlines in which Australia has an interest, which first appeared on the notice-paper six weeks ago?
d. - The reply to the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party, which together with the replies of other honorable members involved a considerable amount of research, is being furnished to-day.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice - 1. (a) What poundage of mail was actually carried by Qantas on its run to London during the year ended the 30th June, 1949? (b) What quantity of mail was carried by Qantas on its other services during that year? (c) What payment for the carnage of such mails was made to Qantas by the Government during the period mentioned?
d. - The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) and (c) The total amount of mail carried by Qantas Empire Airways over the period the 1st July, 1948, to the 30th June, 1949, is stated by the company to be approximately 685,780 lb. This amount includes mails carried on behalf of all the numerous postal administrations which used the service. Qantas Empire Airways state that the total payment which it will receive in respect of the 685,780 lb. of mail referred to above is approximately £1,168,647, which amount includes Qantas Empire Airway’s share of the operators mail revenue pool under the partnership arrangement with British Overseas Airways Corporation. Included in that amount is £678,600 estimated by Qantas Empire Airways as the amount payable by the Australian Government in respect of mail originating in Australia.
and (c) A total of 139,351 lb. of mail (subject to check). The amounts claimed by Qantas Empire Airways in respect of such mails total approximately £99,287, but this is subject to check. The company’s operations to Japan are under charter to the Department of Air for the carriage of military loadings and are not included in the figures given above.
e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Qantas runs during the same period?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2, 3 and 4. The total amount of mail carried by Qantas Empire Airways on the United Kingdom (Kangaroo) route over the period the 1st July, 1947, to the 31st August, 1949, is stated by the company to be approximately 1,332,835 lb. This amount includes mails carried on behalf of all the numerous postal administrations which used the service. Qantas Empire Airways state that the total payment which it will receive in respect of the 1,332,835 lb. of mail referred to above is approximately £2,292,600, which amount includes Qantas Empire Airways’ share of the operators’ mail revenue pool under the partnership arrangement with the British Overseas Airways Corporation. Included in that amount is £1,287,300 estimated by Qantas Empire Airways as the amount payable by the Australian Government in respect of mail originating in Australia. On services other than the Kangaroo route a total of 267,668 lb. of mail (subject to check) has been carried. The amounts claimed by Qantas Empire Airways in respect of such mails total approximately £197,788, but this is subject to check. The company’s operations in Japan are under charter to the Department of Air for the carriage of military loadings and are not included in the figures given above.
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What are the names of the persons or companies, and what amount was paid to each, respectively, in connexion with the following divisions of the Estimates for 1949-50, together with similar details for the year 1948-49: -
Payments to contractors for conveyance of mails.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Actual payments during 1948-49 were as follows: -
Division No. 22B/D/1 in the vote of the Postmaster-General’s Department covers payments by that department to the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of Australian mails carried by air on internal and international routes during the year. Such payments are credited to Civil Aviation revenue as an offset to amounts paid to operators under Divisions 64 and 65, which record all airmail and subsidy payments. In addition, each year substantial amounts collected by the Postal Department on transit mails, are credited to Civil Aviation revenue through a suspense account, and do not appear in Division 226/D/l.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Airways; (e) British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited; and (d) any other airlines, specifying them.
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The advances made by the Government to the Australian National Airlines Commission aggregate £4,370,000. (b) No advances have been made by the Government to Qantas Empire Airways, but a total of £3,753,787 10s. has been spent by the Government in the purchase of shares in this company. The assets of Qantas Empire Airways include a 30 per cent, interest in Tasman Empire Airways represented by shares in that company of a face value of £N.Z.225,000. (c) No advance has been made by the Government to the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, but the Government has purchased 1,000,000 fully paid £1 shares, being a 50 per cent, interest in that company, (d) Nil.
Qantas Empire Airways, which were taken over by Trans-Australia Airlines as from the 2nd April, 1949. (b) The total amount claimed by Qantas Empire Airways from the Australian Government on account of its air-mail services since the company became wholly owned by the Australian Government on the 1st July, 1947, up to the 31st August, 1949, is £1,485,088, being £1,287,300 in respect of the AustraliaUnited Kingdom service, and £197,788 on account of other services. The company’s operations to Japan are under charter to the Department of Air for the carriage of military loading and have not been taken into account. The company’s claims are still subject to check. The apportionment of the amounts claimed into appropriate financial years is not readily available, (c) The payments by the Australian Government to the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines have been - Financial year 1946-47, £45,161; 1947-48, £219,836; 1948-49, £250,155, this last amount being not yet finalized and is subject to check. - The above amounts include payments in respect of mails carried by the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines on behalf of the partner governments and other postal administrations using the services. All the above payments are made by the Department of Civil Aviation.
t asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Committee. The following figures of collections have been furnished by the secretary of the Pool Committee: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 14th October the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked me questions concerning industrial designs. Further to my oral reply to the honorable member on that occasion, I desire to inform him that the Government is conscious of the value of good industrial design to assist manufacturers to sell products in competition to improve the standards of commodities used in the daily life of the people and generally to improve standards of manufacturing practice. The Division of Industrial Development has taken steps to explore the . field of industrial design with a view to making recommendations as to what might be done, to promote good design characteristic of Australia. Representatives of the division had several discussions with Mr. Milner Gray, a leading British designer, president of the United Kingdom Society of Industrial Artists, during his recent visit to Australia under the auspices of the British Council. A report from Mr. Gray in this matter is now awaited. The division is also investigating other developments in design in the United Kingdom and other countries. Particular attention is being given to the work of the Council of ndustrial Design which has been sponsored in the United Kingdom by the Board of Trade. As a result of the investigations now proceeding, it should be possible early next year to formulate a possible course of action for Australia with a view to discussions taking place with manufacturers and others who may be interested.
– On the 20th October the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) addressed a question to me regarding the borrowing, with consent under the Capital Issues Regulations, of certain sums by a Mr. T. R. Pracey. I do not think that I should disclose the confidential information regarding the purposes for which the loan moneys were to be utilized or the security which was to be mortgaged. I can, however, assure the honorable member that at no time was it suggested that the money would be used to purchase race-horses. Moreover. I am satisfied that the application was dealt with in a routine manner and that having regard to the reasons put forward by the applicant, the granting of approval to the borrowing was justified.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Commissions and Inquiries : Fees and Costs.
t. - On the 6th October,I gave the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) particulars of allowances, fees and expenses paid to members of the State judiciaries in connexion with certain royal commissions and inquiries and stated that particulars regarding war crimes would be furnished as soon as they were available. The particulars are as follows : -
War Crimes. - Mr. Justice Webb was paid travelling allowance amounting to £612 8s.10d. and Judge Kirby was paid’ travelling allowance amounting to £303 19s.
Commonwealth of Australia to wit. W. J. McKell Governor-General.
By His Excellency the Governor-General in and over the Commonwealth of Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491027_reps_18_205/>.